The Price Of Leverage, And Justin Upton


We’ve now heard for quite some time that Texas already made its final offer to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Justin Upton, and this was well over a week ago, before Seattle was purportedly prepared to fork over the farm for his services. Of course, Upton exercised his no-trade rights, so that was just another sprinkle in the ocean marked “trades that were supposed to happen but didn’t.”

It piqued my curiosity, because if Seattle was willing to travel at such lengths to ascertain the potential superstar, what would that mean for the Rangers? At the beginning of the offseason, word around baseball “insiders” was that Arizona was interested in one of Texas’ shortstops, either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. It’s safe to say most teams around baseball would like both of them, too, but the Rangers’ needs were finite, and still are. The final two years of Elvis Andrus’s contract before he hits free agency are worth a little over $11 million, so a straight-up trade for Justin Upton — who’s contract is worth years and $38.5 million — seemed like a reasonable swap of young stars. On the other hand, Jurickson Profar is arguably the best prospect in baseball, inhabiting a position of scarcity, so the next 6 years before he hits free agency are virtually untouchable. Indispensable. You can’t put a price on his value, because, well, it’s limitless.

So as I was scrolling my Twitter feed this morning, I saw Jamey Newberg cite Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, and he wrote that Texas’ final offer for Upton consisted of 3B prospect Mike Olt, LHP Martin Perez (or RHP Cody Buckel), IF prospect Leury Garcia, plus one other prospect. I wasn’t terribly shocked. If we’re talking about a package consisting of good value, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine Arizona reeling in a better haul than that, but none of those players carry the style or panache of an Andrus or Profar. It’s essentially an assortment of good, but not great, prospects, who appear more likely to satiate the description of “solid complementary player” than “future superstar.”

According to, Olt is rated as the 12th-best prospect in all of baseball; Perez sits at #55. So, clearly, those would be the two the deal would be centered upon. Leury Garcia, based on elite speed and above average defense, is considered more as a utility infielder, and one can only assume the unnamed 4th prospect included would be somewhat lesser in prospect value than Garcia.

The Diamondbacks’ problem is they have a surplus of outfielders with not enough places to play them all, which is exacerbated by their GM, Kevin Towers, and his unwillingness to move them without an overpay from the other team. It’s really a nonsensical tactic. Once you load up on athletes at a particular position, you lose the leverage in trade negotiations to ask for the moon. In fact, even if you’re asking for equal value, you’re asking too much. Other teams know one of their guys, whether it’s Jason Kubel or Justin Upton, has to be moved. I have a hard time believing Towers will be able to do better than Olt, Perez, Garcia, and a lesser prospect.