According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers had a deal in place to trade outfielder Justin Upton to the Seattle Mariners for a “substantial” return package, but it’s since been reneged as per Upton’s limited no-trade clause — which included the Mariners.
There are a couple different angles to which this phantom trade can be viewed: Either fundamentally simple, or of the conspiracy-theory variety. You know which side I’m leaning towards.
The easiest way to look at this is Upton flat-out doesn’t want to play in Seattle. Ostensibly, that’s a plausible rationale. But with Kevin Towers making it public on two separate occasions that he would like to move his prized outfield talent, I have a hard time believing Upton would not want the first ticket out of town he could get his hands on.
This is where the conspiracy theory kicks in, although it isn’t a conspiracy theory inasmuch it’s just the way business is handled in the Major Leagues. Deception almost always plays a part in potentially franchise-altering decisions.
It’s reasonable to believe Arizona’s GM has a different end game in mind. As we’ve heard all offseason long, he covets one of the Rangers’ elite shortstop talents, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. Even the three-way trade he swung with Cleveland and Cincinnati, relinquishing Trevor Bauer and recouping Didi Gregorius, did not satisfy his need for a franchise player in his defensive 6-hole.
Gregorious profiles as more of a utility infielder. So even though he’s in place, it does not mean if a higher-ceilinged shortstop came around, Towers wouldn’t jump at the chance.
I’ve lamented ad nauseam the need Texas has for one more bat, and I’ve been critical of the Rangers front office for not yet having moved Elvis Andrus to acquire said bat. But at this point, after two crystal clear signals Arizona’s GM has disclosed in his inclination to move Upton, conflated by tonight’s failed trade, I’m beginning to think Towers has lost a lot of his leverage — even though leverage is exactly what he wanted to gain from this non-trade to Seattle.
You see, when you get a team like the Mariners, who has a pretty solid farm system but no real chance to compete in 2013, involved in trade talks, the thought is it will make other teams want to increase the ante. The Rangers view this on the opposite end of the spectrum. They think — because of Arizona’s wanting to trade Upton — that they can hold out as long as they need to, knowing they are Arizona’s most profitable trade partner.
If you ask me, I think Elvis Andrus should have been traded to Arizona for Justin Upton a whole hell of a long time ago. From a public perception standpoint, both the fans and the media would have gotten behind the Rangers with more support. The problem is, Jon Daniels and Rangers’ brass don’t really care. They only make trades if it (a) satisfies the budget, (b) is reasonable from what they’d be giving up versus what they’d be receiving in return, and most obviously, (c) if it tangibly make the team better.
I’m skeptical at this point that Elvis Andrus is moved at all, and that Jurickson Profar will not be starting the season in AAA. The course of events this offseason has led us here. But if I’m looking to take the Rangers over the top, into an AL West title, then I see no reason why we can’t hammer out a deal for one of baseball’s most promising young hitters.
Upton is that guy.