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Monday, December 5, 2022

The Justin Upton Rumors Are Back

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.

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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.


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Brian Bernard

I love Upton, period. However I agree with Nasty that people undervalue Garret Jones.
Leave GI in RF and you have a very productive player.
Tabata, Snyder, Presley all are in the running for 4th OF IMO>


Garrett Jones outhit him in just about every category and the last thing we need is a kid with an attitude. GI Jones will make about $4.5 mil this year in Arb. Last year he hit 27 HR for his salary of $2.2 mil. Upton is scheduled to make $9.5 mil in 2013. The Pirates have ‘Cutch and Starling Marte for a long time, and Garrett Jones will stay until we can get a younger LH bat into RF such as Gregory Polanco if he keeps putting up solid numbers, or we can get a switchhitter such as Mel Rojas, Jr or Josh Bell. With Jones outhitting Upton, and still only in his 2nd Arb year, the Pirates do not need to make any stupid deal.


Garrett Jones outhit him for one year. Upton played hurt or banged up for much of the year (which alone is a reason to pause when looking to trade for him). And I really don’t care about attitude issues that much, I think thats overblown. You’re depending on prospects there who are 3 years away at the minimum.
Its only a stupid deal if they give up a ton for him. However, because of all the periphery stuff (injuries, a drop in performance, he’s about to get expensive) that might seriously drive Upton’s price down.


Nate: The price in players in exchange may go down, but I doubt it. The price in salary will not go down as his salary is locked in at $9.5 mil for 2013 then jumps to $14 mil in 2014 and $15 mil in 2015. The D’Back front office and Manager are “hard-nosed” baseball professionals and they want to unload Upton? And, they play in a launching pad, so discount those offensive stats altogether, and then discount them again for someone coming to Pittsburgh to play in April and May.


You have a good point about his price tag…he’s about to get fairly expensive. However, I think you’re giving D-Backs management a little too much credit. Just because they don’t like him or want to trade him doesn’t mean thats a correct assessment of his abilities now and in the future on their part. Other organizations make mistakes all the time…if they want to trade a guy with superstar potential at the age of 25 because of some “attitude issues” they seem to perceive, thats their decision. But it doesn’t mean they’re correct.
For the record, I do think that Upton comes with too many question marks (in regards to whether the injuries could be continuous) to pull the trigger. I think the Bucs don’t really have the match that the D-Backs are looking for (left-side of the infield).


What? Haven’t they looked at Barmes and his UZR rating? As a should have been gold glover from some perspectives, surely he could be enough to land Upton.

Unless of course, his value to any team other than this one is nil.

Ian Rothermund

I can’t imagine many people feeling good about playing for the DBacks at this time. Yesterday on the Fan radio station, they reported that Trevor Bauer is being shopped around.

Lee Young

Ian…it just shocks me that other teams miss on draft picks, too, even high picks….lol

Ian Rothermund

Lol. I know, it’s shocking. It’s not even that I don’t believe that he has the stuff, I’m just not a fan of little pitchers with jerky motions. Look at Lincecum, that velocity can only last so long. I can’t believe people were clambering for the Pirates to choose Bauer. Why again do you want the 5’10 170lb guy that throws 93 over the 6’4 225 guy (with a smooth motion) that throws 99. Just ridiculous.


I’m not sure if Bauer is that comparable to Lincecum, other than that they’re both undersized. Size and velocity aren’t everything. Its not a definite that Cole will be better than Bauer.


Yeah, I referenced that in the Trade Market Starting Pitcher article. Bauer seems to be stubborn and believes in his own methods and training regime. Could be uncoachable.

If they dump him, that’s a huge miss on the Dbacks scouting department in terms of makeup. And he was Towers’ first draft pick, so he can’t blame in on another regime.


At this point, the Dbacks can’t go into Opening Day 2013 with Upton. His morale would be non-existent after being dangled in talks for 1 full year (2 offseasons and a deadline).

Even if they take 75 cents on the dollar, the Dbacks have to move Upton this offseason. Maybe their asking price will drop and allow a 2nd tier team move in.

Thom Kay

You might be right, for locker room reasons. But I doubt it. After all, Upton was better in the second half last year, after the trade talks began. He won’t go cheap.

I think he’d still cost the Pirates too much. His age is appealing for most teams, but if he pans out, the Pirates won’t be able to re-sign him. So he’s just a 3yr/$38.5M player. He’s worth that, but unless he gives you 2011 production, and not ’10 or ’12, it’s not all that great.

For 3yr/$38.5M, we could get Shane Victorino. We could spend a lot less than that and hugely upgrade by getting David Ross. And we wouldn’t have to give up a single prospect.

Lee Young

If we spend 38.5 mil on Shane Victorino, who Keith Law says has lost bat speed and is now a 4th OFer, I will never watch a Pirate game again!


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