Over the past two weeks the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are looking for pitching, have once again floated the name of their star outfielder, Justin Upton, as a piece in a possible trade deal. The 25-year old Upton (six year slash line of .278/.357/.475/.832 with average of 19 stolen bases over the last four years), could be a prize for a team in need of an outfielder heading into his prime playing years. While Boston is approaching a full outfield dance card for the 2013 season – a platoon player to compliment Jonny Gomes notwithstanding – acquiring Upton would solve a few key problems that Boston will likely have, especially after the 2013 season, perhaps when Upton is not available.
By any baseball pundit’s measure, Jacoby Ellsbury is likely to walk in his contract year after the 2013 season has concluded. It’s unlikely that Boston would or could trade him for a player of value given his injury history unless he produces nicely in the first half of this season, approaches his 2011 form and becomes part of a July trade deadline deal.
Over the past three seasons, Ellsbury has missed 282 of Boston’s 324, games an absentee rate of 70%. Quibble if like with the “he’s just been unlucky” story line and I’d tend to agree. The bottom line, however, as his 2012 shoulder injury especially underscored, is that Ellsbury comes back slowly from injury. His bat didn’t have the same pop when he returned in 2012. His season, like the team’s, was flat and uninspired. At the end of the 2013 season Ellsbury will be 30.
If Boston were to get involved in trade negotiations for Upton they’d have to give up prospects that Ben Cherington has previously been unwilling to discuss. Xander Bogaerts (unlikely a play since Arizona already plugged their shortstop hole), Jackie Bradley Jr (CF)., and pitchers Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Henry Owens and Rubby De La Rosa would likely be players of interest to Arizona. Boston would not have the strongest suit to play since the D’Backs have also been talking with the Mariners about Upton and Seattle has at least as many talented minor league pitching prospects as does Boston.
This is a classic case of pay me now or pay me later if ever there was one. Cherington has made virtually every move this winter while protecting his prospects. There may come a time shortly for players the likes of Upton or another quality starter in which he’ll need to amend that strategy and temporarily break his own rule.
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you just might find
You get what you need
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones