Upton was never “almost a Mariner,” or at least we don’t know it. But he’s an Atlanta Brave now and the Mariners may be better off for it.
As a Mariners fan the last couple of weeks have been a bit trying. No matter where you fell on the Justin Upton trade that the Diamondbacks accepted, that Upton refused to approve the trade was a bit disconcerting. Many of us have a bit of an inferiority complex as Seattle rarely tops the list of any free agent’s chosen destinations, and now the same thing led to them missing out on a trade.
A pretty solid argument could be made that the Mariners are better off without Upton and with the prospects they have, and perhaps the biggest silver lining to the John Jaso for Mike Morse trade is that the team could have sold a large part of the farm system away for a volatile Upton, who while under team control boasts a pretty high salary number, and production that hasn’t met his potential. So while I think that the Morse-Jaso trade was a net loss, and a failure in talent evaluation process, chances are the value of Mike Morse and John Jaso will be relatively comparable. Upton, by contrast, has potential to create any substantial price tag into a massive overpay.
One of the reasonable possible outcomes of the trade that the Mariners proposed is for Justin Upton to be basically an unproductive player at the end of his contract, and become the functional equivalent to Delmon Young or Elijah Dukes. That’s not to say that he’s going to abuse his wife or shout anti-Semitic slurs at anyone, but he’s got attitude problems and production that may not justify dealing with those attitude problems. Maybe Lastings Milledge would have been a better analogy, but it’s too late for that now.
Another reasonable outcome is that Taijuan Walker becomes an ace, Nick Franklin becomes a big-league regular, Stephen Pryor a lights out closer, and Charlie Furbush is productive in some role.
Considering those are at both ends of the spectrum they seem unlikely, and their inverse is probably just as likely because the two outcomes aren’t correlated, the one thing I like about the Morse trade is that the range of scope of possible outcomes seems pretty narrow. Though I feel that if you drew a line at the median outcome, that the Mariners would have “lost the trade,” I feel a lot more comfortable with Morse’s track record, attitude, and ability, especially considering the team gave up only one player for him.
It seems like the general feeling is that the Diamondbacks came out a little big behind on this deal. The majority of that criticism seems to be using the Mariners trade as a point of reference. It’s not very often that we find out the entire terms of a trade that doesn’t happen, and when it doesn’t happen and we hear about it’s usually because it was the offer that lost.
From my point of view the Diamondbacks traded from a position of strength, and abundant depth, and received Martin Prado, a guy who is basically as productive as Upton but at a greater position of need, and a very decent haul of prospects. There’s a good chance that none of the prospects the Braves got ever become stars. There’s a good chance that Taijuan Walker has a better career than every prospect traded to Arizona. But Taijuan Walker wasn’t available to the Diamondbacks because Justin Upton said so.
Randall Delgado has mid-upper rotation stuff, and his sinking fastball could become a groundball machine without sapping his strikeout numbers. The rest of the prospects are fine, but perhaps not great, and Chris Johnson, the third baseman headed to the Braves has significant holes in his game.
The idea of getting Justin Upton was always intriguing, but trading a load of upper-end prospects for him was less palatable, especially if the team would have to negotiate with Upton financially to make him waive his no-trade clause.