Justin Upton to Pittsburgh Pirates: A Humble Fan’s Take
After losing two of three to the Brewers and dropping the opening game against Colorado, the Pirates are at the center of the trading rumor mill. The Pirates desperately need another outfield bat after the combinations of Drew Sutton/Gorkys Hernandez/Josh Harrison/Garrett Jones continually cost Pittsburgh runs, something an offensively challenged team cannot afford to do.
It’s crazy to believe that Arizona put out Justin Upton’s name for feelers and now are in a position where they almost have to deal him. Upton’s party is very upset that the D-Backs attempted to shop him around and his dropping production in Arizona only stirs more intrigue into the pot. Out of all teams that have been associated with Upton, the Pirates are one team people think can swing a deal.
The problem is that the logistics between the two teams don’t match up so well. Arizona needs infielders that don’t exist within the Pirates’ system. While pitching is never a bad thing to have, Arizona feels comfortable with their prospects and don’t necessarily want a Cole or Tallion as compared to other top prospects. There is some speculation that a third party may need to become involved, but I don’t see this happening either. Remember, Arizona was never planning for this and isn’t necessarily selling anything except Upton while the Pirates don’t have many mid level assets they can afford to give up if they don’t address pitching at the deadline.
Therefore it seems logical that the Pirates and D-Backs will only trade with each other, but both are rightfully sticking to trading principles that can doom the deal. Arizona wants back an MLB ready player and a couple of midlevel prospects or a single top prospect. Justin Upton is a MVP candidate who is inked to a team friendly contract and is still young enough to make major strides and become elite. The Pirates don’t want to part with top prospects Marte, Cole, or Tallion for a player who is showing a huge regression that is due to a faulty mental approach at the plate combined with swing mechanics gone wrong. (Ahem Pedro Alvarez.) From the Pirates view, Marte is a future All-Star, Cole and Tallion rotation building aces to accompany James McDonald in the bigs.
Here’s the reality.
Marte will be good but not as great as everyone makes him out to be. He will be a poor man’s Upton because as of now, everything mechanically seems solid and he is above average at everything, but not elite at anything. Neither Cole or Tallion should be moved for the sole fact that there are no upcoming prospects in the 2013 draft with their upside. Upton needs a change of scenery as well as a solid hitting coach to work out his kinks and consistently perform at the level he showed last year.
Pittsburgh could fit with Upton who I think would respond well in the Pirates loose clubhouse filled with other young players who tend to ignore the outsiders who have written them off for so many years. The problem is I think Arizona realizes this too and will work the deal as if they are dealing Upton 2011 and not Upton 2012.
The best scenario is for the Pirates to use Allen Hanson and Luis Haredia as the key prospects in the deal. Heredia is so young and showing so much upside that it would be easy to project him as another future ace. However, he is so far away from the majors, the Pirates can afford to part with him since Tallion and Cole would remain in the system. Starling Marte would also have to be part of the deal for the D-Backs to say yes. If the Pirates don’t give AZ anything they really “need,” then the D-Backs have to at least replace Upton immediately. Marte should be able to replace Upton’s 2012 numbers with the big club (Marte is .291/.353/.510/.863 in AAA, Upton is .271/.353/.393/.746 in MLB) but Marte’s greatest value is his potential.
Wonder why Marte hasn’t been called up yet? It means the Pirates know a kid tearing up AAA with power and speed is far more valuable than said prospect struggling for two weeks with an MLB learning curve. Could Marte come in, tear up the MLB for a few weeks and increase his trade value? Yes but that’s a huge if. Right now, Marte has enough hype to be traded as a top tier prospect and that helps keep Cole and Tallion off the trade table.
So to recap: For the Pirates to acquire Upton, AZ must value Upton as a mental blocked prospect and not a MVP candidate. Starling Marte must continue to increase his trade value by tearing up AAA and not be called up before being dealt. Finally, Arizona has to be willing to gamble and take Hanson and Heridia over Cole or Tallion.
That’s a lot to ask for, but both teams need this trade to happen. Don’t expect it done for another few weeks, but every Pirate loss only amplifies the microscope.