In A Pickle: D-Backs Point Of View


Coming into the 2013 off-season, I wanted the Texas Rangers to sign Zack Greinke more than anyone else that was available, until I saw what the Dodgers actually paid for him. When that didn’t happen, I started looking at the Rangers’ roster differently. I imagined Texas getting a huge bat to replace Josh Hamilton in the lineup. Justin Upton was one of the first three names in my mind, behind Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones. After all we have been through as Texas fans this winter (let’s dramatize), Upton remains easily the best and most realistic target for the Rangers in 2013.  Overall, I give an Upton trade to Texas a 25% chance of happening. Compared to 5% for Kyle Lohse and %10 for Michael Bourn.

Anyways, in an early January interview with Kevin Towers on MLB.com the GM said, “Always fielding phone calls, always having discussions.” Arizona’s General Manager went on to say, “Still getting lots of hits on our outfielders. I think once we signed Cody, those people who were still looking for offense started ringing my phone. We’re in a position where unless it’s the right deal, we don’t have to move any of our outfielders.”

Arizona Diamondbacks Outfield options w/ contract remaining:

Justin Upton, RF, 3yrs $38 MM — $9.75 MM in 2013 — 2016 is 1st yr of FA
Jason Kubel, LF, 2yrs $15 MM — $7.5 MM in 2013 — 2014 is a club option
Cody Ross, OF, 4yrs $35.5 MM — $6.0 MM in 2013 — 2016 is a club option
Gerardo Parra, CF, 3yrs of Arbitration — $2.4 MM(Est.) in 2013 — 2016 is 1st yr of FA
Adam Eaton, CF, 6yrs of MLB min. & Arbitration — 2019 is 1st yr of FA
Eric Hinske, OF/1B, 1yr $1.35 MM — becomes FA in 2014

That’s about $27,000,000 owed to the Arizona outfielders just this coming season alone. That number will get even bigger next year. I think Towers knows he needs to make a move here or the Snakes may be in a little bit of a pickle.

“He’s (Cody Rossa guy that we felt fit well with us short term and long term, and now we’re in more of a leveraged position with our outfielders where we can sit and wait for the right deal to come to us,” Towers said. “If it doesn’t, then we send Adam back to Triple-A and go with Parra and Ross in center and keep Upton and Kubel on the corners. If something presents itself that we think is the right deal, then we go ahead and do it and we’ve got protection because we’ve gotten Ross.”

All of this makes no sense to me, at all. The first thing that came out of Towers’ mouth when talking about signing Ross was both, “We’re in a position where unless it’s the right deal, we don’t have to move any of our outfielders.” “…and now we’re in more of a leveraged position with our outfielders where we can sit and wait for the right deal to come to us.”

Seems like he really has this all planned out… or he is shooting from the hip with a .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle. Excuse the Call Of Duty reference. Towers has showed interest in leaving Eaton at the major league level and playing him in CF every day because of his speed and defense. Now he says that he will move him to AAA if a player isn’t traded.

Gerardo Parra is probably confused because he is a Gold Glove defender in the OF and he more than likely thinks he should start everyday in the OF, as do I for that matter. Parra is around a 2.5 WAR player with more than 130 games played in each of the last two seasons. That makes him worth low 8 figures when converted into salary from fWAR. Now his 130 games will most likely sink to around 100 with this trade. I am not saying Parra is a huge asset offensively but he does his part on offense while also winning games above replacement with his defense alone (2.5 defensive WAR since 2010).

Justin Upton is a MVP-type player. He could hit 35 bombs with 120 RBIs and steal 20 bases while being above-average defensively. Or he could have a season like last season, with 17 HR, drive in 85 and steal 18 bases. Still, last season Upton was worth 2.5 fWAR. He earned his payroll. Upton’s name has been on the trade block the most, he has been linked to the Mariners, Rangers and Cubs. With the Mariners getting Michael Morse, you can cross them off the list. Cubs… probably not gonna happen unless the D-Backs want Alfonso Soriano, Brett Jackson or Anthony Rizzo… which they don’t. Starlin Castro won’t be traded to the desert unless Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley or Patrick Corbin are added to the deal, which they won’t be.

The Texas Rangers make the most sense. Lock up your 3B of the future with Mike Olt. Add another young arm in the future rotation with Martin Perez or Cody Buckel and add an IF in Luis Sardinas (which they don’t really need). The Rangers could also send young fire-balling relievers Wilmer Font or Roman Mendez to the Diamondbacks as a “cherry on top”. If that trade comes to fruition, the Rangers could then dump Nelson Cruz‘s salary to a championship contending team to off-set the addition of Upton’s $9.75 MM salary. JD could also send Cruz to first base, where Cruz could ease the physical strain on his somewhat frail body and fill a Texas need with one move. When asked about the Justin Upton rumor mill Towers said, “It makes no sense to even respond to that, I’ve had the same position from day one. It’s not that we’re shopping, but if people call and ask about him, we listen.”

Jason Kubel is probably the most likely to be traded among all of the outfielders because he isn’t considered a huge piece for the D-Backs like Parra (Gold Glover), Justin Upton (All-Star), and Adam Eaton (Prospect). Kubel was worth about 2 fWAR last season, even with his 30 bombs. Kubel could fit a lot of teams in the majors. If he was a 1B or even had experience there, he would be perfect for the Rangers to trade for with a smaller price than Upton. He would also go to a position with actual need.

Cody Ross will play… what position? CF? I honestly don’t get it. He may be a better hitter than Parra, but why was he signed unless Towers KNEW they would trade any of their OF this off season? I’m guessing he will split time in centerfield with Gerardo Parra. Eric Hinske… eh whatever.

In summary, Kevin Towers has made some questionable moves this off-season. With Cody Ross being added, the D-Backs have 4 potential starters who could play all 162. Ross and Kubel could platoon but so could Parra and Ross. If Kubel is traded, the OF could actually be better this year than it was last year. I believe that because Ross, Parra, and Upton are the best three pure outfielders the D-Backs have at the moment. If Justin Upton is traded, the Diamondbacks won’t lose a huge amount in the immediate future (or else they wouldn’t even have discussed a trade) but will gain a lot in the future depending on the value Upton brings. After witnessing Billy Beane and Chris Antonetti mop the floor with Mr.Towers earlier in the off-season, I can only hope Jon Daniels gets the next opportunity.

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Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Justin Upton Kevin Towers Texas Rangers

  • Eric Reining

    Applaud the thoroughness. However, I don’t believe the term “cap hit” is applicable to baseball. Pretty sure that relates more to players whom get released from NFL rosters. Like Mark Sanchez, he’s owed $9.5 million in 2013, but if he gets released it’s a $16.5 million “cap hit”.

    In baseball it’s more like “this is how much money he will be owed in year-X_.”

    As for some of the content, I’m highly suspect Nelson Cruz would transition to 1B. Outfielders don’t have very cozy transitions to the IF; it generally works better the other way around. If Upton is acquired, I’m assuming Texas would move Cruz via trade for some lower-level, high-upside pitcher, because we really need to shed his $10.5 million price tag if we’re going to bring in Upton’s $9.75 million.

  • http://twitter.com/C_Shearman Clayton Shearman

    I used the term as a way to describe the effect their salary will have on the “cap”. “cap hit” was used in my article to be brief in explanation. Excuse my brevity.

    I’m sure Cruz wouldn’t be the best option at 1B, but IF he could translate to first base he would replace Moreland’s bat in the lineup. I also mentioned, “If that trade comes to fruition, the Rangers could then dump Nelson Cruz‘s salary to a championship contending team to off-set the addition of Upton’s $9.75 MM salary.”