The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres have held on-and-off discussions about a trade involving those players since July, but the talks have failed to progress, according to major league sources.
The Diamondbacks, however, continue to discuss Upton with other clubs, including the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, sources say, while also considering offers for another of their outfielders, Jason Kubel.
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The Rangers want to acquire Upton without giving up either shortstop Elvis Andrus or infielder Jurickson Profar. Their preference is to build a package around third baseman Mike Olt, and the team is willing to add a top pitching prospect and third quality piece to the package, sources say.
But the D-backs, sources say, believe they could make an even better deal for Upton with another club — possibly the Mariners, who are aggressively trying to add a power hitter.
The problem for the D-backs in trading with the Mariners is that the M’s are on Upton’s four-team no-trade list, and sources say that he is not inclined to approve a deal to Seattle. That, however, could change if the Mariners redirected some of the money they were willing to pay free agent Josh Hamilton toward an extension for Upton, who is signed for $38.5 million over the next three years.
The Atlanta Braves also have made “strong overtures” for Upton, sources say, and other teams also might be involved in the discussions. The D-backs’ discussions with the Padres indicate that when a player of Upton’s quality is available, teams will make creative proposals.
Headley, 28, broke out in 2012, finishing fifth in the voting for National League MVP after batting .286 with an .875 OPS, 31 home runs and a NL-high 115 RBIs, all while playing his home games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Padres likely would need to add to Headley to complete a trade for Upton, who was fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2011. Upton, 25, is younger than Headley, has a longer track record and is under club control for one more year.
Headley projects to earn more than $8 million next season and even more in his final year of arbitration in ’14. The Padres figure to either trade him or sign him to a lucrative extension before he becomes eligible for free agency.
Upton’s cost certainty over the next three years is one reason he appeals to the Rangers, who continued adding to their offense Saturday by reaching agreement with free-agent designated hitter Lance Berkman on a one-year, $11 million contract.
The Rangers have been persistent — and relentless — in their pursuit of Upton. Team officials thought a deal was close at the end of the winter meetings last month, but the talks collapsed, only to recently revive.
The addition of Upton on top of Berkman and free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski would help the Rangers replenish the offense they lost when they traded third baseman Michael Young to Philadelphia and parted with outfielder Josh Hamilton and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli as free agents.
The question remains whether the Diamondbacks would want more for Upton than the Rangers are willing to offer — and whether they could get it from another club.
Olt, one of the game’s top hitting prospects and a strong defender, is described by one rival executive as, “Joe Crede at worst, Matt Williams light at best.”
The Rangers, sources say, also would offer the Diamondbacks a high-end young pitcher to replace the recently traded Trevor Bauer and at least one more piece from their talent-rich system. Left-hander Martin Perez and right-handers Justin Grimm and Cody Buckel are the Rangers’ most highly regarded pitching prospects.
Olt played third base, first base and right field during his brief callup with the Rangers last season. He would not fill an obvious need for the D-backs, who are waiting on another third-base prospect, Matt Davidson, and are set at first base and the corner outfield positions, but Olt’s ability to play multiple spots would give the team options.
The Diamondbacks addressed their need at shortstop when they acquired Didi Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds last month in the Bauer deal, and they also obtained Cliff Pennington from the Oakland Athletics earlier in the offseason.
Andrus and Profar are much more highly regarded than either of those players, but the D-backs’ overall picture has changed. They recently created a surplus in their outfield by signing free agent Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million contract.
Upton, rival executives say, would bring back more in return than Kubel, the team’s left fielder. Upton is five years younger than Kubel and possesses greater upside, while Kubel is under club control only through next season.