Sources: Jays have interest in Upton
The Blue Jays, a team deep in high-end pitching prospects, have expressed strong interest in trading for Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton, major-league sources say.
The Jays, after winning 85 games and finishing fourth in the highly competitive AL East last season, are showing a renewed aggressiveness this offseason.
Upton, 23, would be a more logical fit than second baseman Dan Uggla, whom the Jays tried to acquire from the Marlins earlier in the week.
While Uggla stood to earn $10 million-plus in arbitration and then become a free agent, Upton is under contract through 2015 and guaranteed $49.5 million over those five seasons.
The Red Sox, thought to be a possible front-runner in the Upton trade discussions, are now on the “backburner,” sources say.
Roughly half the major-league clubs have expressed interest in Upton. The Diamondbacks are making it clear to potential suitors that they intend to “win” any Upton trade.
An official from one interested club said the D-Backs want four top prospects for Upton. The Yankees, among other teams, are balking at that price.
The Diamondbacks, judging by the level of interest, are confident a deal is possible, sources say. Upton's contract enables him to reject trades to four clubs, but his list is not expected to be a factor.
The Red Sox are interested in Upton, but also working multiple fronts, including the pursuits of free-agent outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and their own free agents, catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The Diamondbacks have discussed expanded deals involving other teams with the Red Sox, sources said. But as of Wednesday night, there was little momentum for a trade.
If the Red Sox traded only their own players for Upton, they'd likely need to part with some combination of reliever Daniel Bard, minor league right-hander Casey Kelly and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Kalish.
Which other clubs are interested in Upton? Perhaps the better question is, which clubs are not?
Here are three teams that could come up with intriguing prospect combinations that fit Arizona's needs.
Yankees: Towers is familiar with the New York farm system after working for the Yankees last season. The Yankees could probably build a competitive offer with some combination of catcher Jesus Montero, right-handed starter Ivan Nova, left-handed starter Manuel Banuelos and infielder Brandon Laird, who's being blocked by both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
Angels: Upton would cost them players, but he'd be more affordable than Crawford, their perceived top target in free agency. Outfielder Mike Trout is one of the “it” prospects in baseball right now, but it remains to be seen if GM Tony Reagins would include him in an offer. Reagins also has attractive depth at catcher, along with power arms Jordan Walden and Kevin Jepsen coming out of the bullpen. After outfielder Peter Bourjos struggled offensively in the big leagues, would Towers buy low?
A's: GM Billy Beane is always aggressive, and even after trading Vin Mazzaro, he has a stockpile of young starters from which to trade. The team's bullpen depth should be restored as well, with the returns of Joey Devine and Jerry Blevins from injury. And Oakland could use a big bat in right field; the team's .628 OPS at the position was the worst in the majors last season.
Low-revenue club such as the Royals, Rays and Marlins appear to be less likely landing spots, in part because of the steep price in prospects and because Upton will earn $14.25 million and $14.5 million in the final two years of his contract.
Upton, though immensely talented, is not necessarily a sure thing.
Some teams harbor reservations about his makeup, a shoulder injury that limited him to only five games after Aug. 30 and his statistics outside of Arizona's hitter-friendly Chase Field.
Other clubs view Upton as a player who only stands to improve as he enters his prime, and a player who could benefit from changing teams.
Upton hit 26 home runs and produced an .899 OPS in 2009, prompting the Diamondbacks to sign him to a six-year, $51.25 million extension last March.
He dropped to 17 homers and a .799 OPS last season. His salaries in the final two years of his deal — $14.25 million and $14.5 million — are considered steep by some low-revenue teams.
The Diamondbacks have discussed three-team, and possibly four-team, trades with the Red Sox, sources said. But as of Wednesday night, there was little momentum for a deal.