Padres Interested In Justin Upton. Are the Mariners Done Making Moves?
Following a largely uneventful Winter Meetings in San Diego for the Seattle Mariners, the front office staff head back to Seattle with needs to fill.
Most glaringly, the Mariners still need a right fielder, unless they plan to send Nelson Cruz out there with frequency, or if they really think they can convert Brad Miller into a competent right fielder.
Enter Justin Upton. Upton, a 27-year old slugging right-fielder, has been linked to the Mariners throughout the offseason. In fact, a few offseasons ago, the Mariners actually traded for Justin Upton with the Arizona Diamondbacks. But back then the Mariners were one of Upton’s four no-trade clause teams, and he nixed the deal.
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That deal had Taijuan Walker going to the Diamondbacks. And again this offseason, Walker is wanted in any deal for Upton. But this time, he’s playing in Atlanta and has only one year left on his contract.
The inclusion of the young right-hander in any deal has really hampered trade talks between the Mariners and the Braves. The M’s want to keep Walker as best they can, and the front office is hesitant to trade 5 years of cost-controlled Walker for one year of a $14.5 million Justin Upton.
There’s no denying Upton’s prowess as a hitter, though. He would bring monstrous pop to the Mariners lineup. And even thinking about a Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Justin Upton middle of the order would make opposing pitchers take notice.
In 154 games last season for the Braves, Justin Upton hit .270/.342/.491 with 29 home runs and 102 RBI. Those numbers would have most certainly gotten the M’s another win or two in 2014, putting them in position to make the playoffs.
October 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielderMatt Kemp
(27) catches a fly ball in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The steep asking price for Upton isn’t the only holdup in a deal with the Mariners. According to a number of sources, the San Diego Padres are looking to further bolster their outfield by trading for Justin Upton. During the Winter Meetings, the Padres traded for Dodgers superstar outfielder Matt Kemp.
The Padres are almost as desperate as the Mariners are for a right fielder, as theirs hit a meager .228/.291/.339 with only 9 home runs last season.
If the Padres ship enough talent eastward, they could land their second big fish of the offseason via the trade.
However, it doesn’t make all that much sense for the Padres to trade for Upton unless they really believe they can compete for a World Series in 2015. Their pitching is deep and powerful (much like the M’s), but they have a lot of question marks on their roster, especially considering Chase Headley is unlikely to return as a free agent.
So if the Padres aren’t necessarily the perfect fit for Justin Upton, where does he go?
Of course, the Mariners could pull the trigger on a trade for the slugger. But, after seeing the lack of activity during the Winter Meetings, it is clear the Mariners do not want to trade any of their young arms for a rental. The front office is confident this team can compete right now without a proven right fielder.
Who knows, the Mariners certainly could go out and win the AL West with its current roster. Heck, they finished one game out of the wild-card last season with more question marks than the Riddler’s jumpsuit.
But if the M’s want to legitimize their lineup, Justin Upton would certain do that. The question remains: are the Mariners willing to trade Walker for him, and are the Braves willing to consider a deal that does not include the young right-hander?