I have to admit, I never wanted Justin Upton to be traded. When we hit the slow baseball months of the offseason, there’s nothing more fun than a Justin Upton rumor. Sometimes the rumors are about how the Diamondbacks are waiting for a big haul, sometimes we hear the team will most definitely trade him in the coming months, but at least we always end up hearing something. I don’t know if Arizona is playing some sort of game with his head, but I like to imagine what it would be like to have Upton on the Yankees.
Upton will be just 25 years old in 2013. In his last four seasons, he’s accumulated fWARs of 4.8, 3.0, 6.4, and 2.5, this all before his “prime years.” He hasn’t been the most consistent young player, but he can hit for average and power, he can take walks, he has great range in the outfield, a strong arm, and he can steal bases. If there’s a player to dream on in the trade market, it’s Justin Upton.
The Diamondbacks and Mariners agreed on a trade yesterday that would send Upton to Seattle for Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, and Taijuan Walker. Although the deal was agreed upon by both teams, Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause and rejected the trade. (Perhaps it was karma for the shifty Cliff Lee business in 2010) Now we have an example of what it would realistically take to get Upton.
Though the Yankees have not been linked to him, they need a right-handed outfielder. Perhaps Upton is overkill, and maybe his $14 million salary doesn’t fit perfectly into the 2014 budget, but this is just for fun. Let’s come up with some comparable players to the Mariners’ package from yesterday.
Nick Franklin will be 22 years old next season. He was a 27th overall pick in 2009, and Baseball America’s #53 prospect in 2011. Since then, Franklin’s put together two questionable seasons. In 2011, he OPS’d .770 with just 7 homeruns across High-A and Double-A. In 2012, he OPS’d .800 across Double-A and Triple-A. There’s some good upside there, especially for a shortstop or second baseman, but he’s still a risky player who should have crushed the PCL last season. Slade Heathcott would be a similar high-risk/high-reward player.
Charlie Furbush was never a top 100 prospect, but he always put up big strikeout numbers in the minors. In 2011, his first Major League season, he struggled as a starter. The Mariners moved him to the bullpen last season, and he put up 46.1 innings of great relief work. The only thing to worry about in his relief numbers is his low BABIP. A comparable player in the Yankees’ system would be David Phelps, who probably has a bit more value considering his ability to start.
Stephen Pryor is a reliever who saw his first Major League debut last season. He posted a 3.91 ERA across 23.0 innings, but that was behind a 5.27 FIP. Pryor was very successful in the minors as a reliever, and at just 23 years old, he has potential, assuming he can figure out his control issues. It’s hard to find a similar reliever in the Yankees system, as Mark Montgomery has much more success in the minors, and the rest of the relievers are in low levels. If the Diamondbacks are willing to take a risk, Nick Goody would be my offer. Though Goody has barely seen High-A, he has shown ridiculous strikeout numbers at the age of 20. He’ll take some time to develop, but he’s a breakout candidate in 2013.
Finally, Walker was a highly touted prospect coming into the 2012 season, but struggled in 2012. A drop off in strikeouts and an increase in hits caused his FIP to increase from 2.70 to 4.04 in the jump from Single-A to Double-A . Still at 20 years old, struggles are to be expected, but his stock is certainly down at the moment. One of Gary Sanchez or Mason Williams should be comparable, assuming the Diamondbacks are willing to take a position player.
My offer would be Sanchez, Heathcott, Phelps, and Goody. While it is a big chunk of the Yankees system, the team would get one of the best young players in baseball for the next three years. The system wouldn’t be totally destroyed either, as they’d keep Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Manny Banuelos, and still have three first round draft picks in June. Of course, it has to work from the Diamondback’s perspective too. That team is loaded with outfielders, and they may not want to take Slade Heathcott. They also have catcher Miguel Montero signed for the long term, but at least Sanchez would give them the opportunity to trade away Montero when his average annual salary increases.
Trading for Upton doesn’t make the most sense for the Yankees, but it’s still fun to muse on. They’d be better off using their trade chips for cheaper players, but you won’t find me arguing if Upton becomes a target.