During the summer, there were rumors that the Arizona Diamondbacks were shopping Justin Upton. The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the teams linked to Upton, although nothing came of the rumors and Arizona kept their young outfielder. In what seems to be an off-season tradition, the rumors that the Diamondbacks are shopping Upton have started again. Once again, the Pirates are involved, only this time as more of a darkhorse candidate.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has an update on five teams who could deal for Upton. He notes that the Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, and Braves are the top possible suitors. He also lists the Royals and Pirates as sleeper candidates. Arizona is looking for a shortstop or a third baseman. The Pirates don’t have a shortstop that could land Upton, and their third baseman is Pedro Alvarez, which could be counter productive in a trade. Piecoro’s summary on the Pirates was interesting outside of Alvarez.
As for the Pirates, they were said to be pushing for Upton at this year’s trading deadline. They have a slugging third baseman in Pedro Alvarez – although questions about his defensive ability could dissuade the Diamondbacks – and have a couple of solid starters in A.J. Burnett and James McDonald.
I can’t see Burnett having much value in these talks, as he’s only under control for one season. McDonald might have some value as a young starter with three years of control remaining, but where his value lies is questionable since he was a tale of two different pitchers last year.
MLBTR has a roundup of the rumors on Upton. The Rangers won’t deal shortstops Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, which would end talks. Arizona would take a “good young starter” as the centerpiece for Upton. That would seemingly be the only chance for the Pirates, although their best trade chips would be prospects, and it seems Arizona would be looking more toward a guy in the majors. That’s where McDonald would come into play, although it would take more than McDonald to get a deal done.
I’d be shocked if the Pirates eventually landed Upton. Looking at the other teams involved, the Pirates are at a disadvantage. They can’t afford to give up prospects or young talent as easily as a team like Boston or Texas, who can turn to free agency to replace those prospects. As I said over the summer, not getting Upton might not be a bad thing. He’s considered a top young talent, but there are some red flags. The biggest red flag is the fact that he’s constantly on the trading block. Arizona seems to be looking for players who can help now, and in the future. In theory, that is Upton, which means it makes no sense to trade him. Another red flag is the fact that he has some bad numbers on the road. Even in his strong 2011 season he struggled on the road, and more than the typical “players usually do better at home” situation.
At any rate, it should be interesting to follow the Justin Upton rumors once again. It’s an interesting situation. Upton is highly regarded as one of the best young players in the game, yet when he is rumored to be traded the interest seems low, and teams hold back top prospects that you’d think would be available for a player like Upton.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.