It has been a very disappointing season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. After somehow winning 94 games in 2011 and marching to the NL West title, things have been tougher in 2012. What’s really odd is that they haven’t actually been playing much worse; but they have been every bit the victims of bad luck as they were the benefactors of good luck last season.
Their lineup, which scored the fourth-most runs in the NL last season, hasn’t been as potent this year, but they still sit sixth in the NL, while their run prevention ranks eighth—exactly where it was in 2011. Still, Arizona enters today’s action with a 40-43 record, six games behind the division-leading Dodgers and five games behind the Reds, who occupy the second wildcard spot.
Arizona is getting to that point where they must decide if they are buyers and sellers and although five games out of a playoff spot doesn’t seem particularly daunting—especially with half the season remaining—they are behind five teams. Not only do they have to catch up to the Reds and Giants, but they have to leapfrog the Marlins, Cardinals, Braves and Mets; four teams that on paper are far superior in overall talent to the D-Backs.
Yesterday evening, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that Arizona may consider trading star rightfielder Justin Upton if they fall further out of contention over the next couple weeks. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Upton’s name mentioned in trade rumours. In the 2010-11 offseason, rumours broke out during the Winter Meetings that Upton was on the trade block as new GM Kevin Towers wanted to assess the value of his bourgeoning star. They decided to hang on to him and Upton reeled off a career year in 2011, hitting to a .385 wOBA and accumulating a 6.4 fWAR at the still-tender age of 23.
Like the performance of his team, Upton has disappointed so far in 2012, seeing his wOBA plummet to just .317 with only seven home runs at the All-Star break.
It should be kept in mind, of course, that Upton is only 24 and amassed a ridiculous 14.2 fWAR in his age 21-23 seasons. Since 1990, only six players were more valuable at that age and all (with the exception of Grady Sizemore) should be headed to the Hall of Fame someday. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Upton’s best days are still very much ahead of him.
Not only that, but Upton’s contract is at least moderately team-friendly as he’s owed roughly only $42-million over the next three-plus seasons. Even the most conservative of projections on his performance should have him providing plenty of value on that contract, especially since he’s just now entering his prime.
Trading Upton seems at first blush like a terrible idea for a team with an emerging young core, but there would appear to be a method to Towers’ madness. Sure, it may seem like Upton’s trade value is at rock bottom currently, but I would hazard to guess most GMs in baseball would be licking their chops to acquire one of the most talented outfielders in the game—there would be no shortage in potential suitors. Given that his contract runs through 2015 at a reasonable price, Towers has all of the leverage in a potential trade.
In other words, someone will be willing to quite literally sell the farm to acquire Upton and if Towers doesn’t get exactly what he wants in return, he can hold on to him and continue to run out a player who could very easily become one of the best in the game.
It’s never a dumb idea for a GM to float a player’s name on the market to see what kind of return he could garner—two offseasons ago, Towers didn’t like what he saw and took his finger off the trigger. There’s no reason why he couldn’t do that again.
And the rest:
Three players that just cannot catch a break when it comes to staying healthy: Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton left last night’s game with back spasms [Christian Corona, MLB.com], Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford was taken out of his rehab assignment again with a mild groin strain [Evan Drellich, Twitter], and Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has been diagnosed with a right hip labral tear and could require surgery [Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun].
More injury news as Dustin Pedroia has been placed on the DL with another, unrelated, thumb injury. He’s expected to miss a few weeks so the All-Star break is very much his friend [Gordon Edes, ESPN].
The Rockies are making middle infielder Marco Scutaro available [Jon Paul Morosi, Twitter]. If the Rockies manage to get anything from him (which they should), it has be considered a huge win for the Rockies who acquired Scutaro for a fringy pitcher from the Red Sox this winter.
Morosi is also reporting that the Tigers are interested in acquiring Cubs righthander Matt Garza. The Tigers and Cubs were allegedly close to a deal involving Garza this offseason as well.
The Astros will likely not re-sign manager Brad Mills this offseason, but GM Jeff Luhnow says that he has no intention of removing him mid-season [Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports].
Billy Hamilton is really fast—we all know this—but how fast is he compared to some of the game’s greatest base stealers? [Jesse Sakstrup, Hardball Times].
A St. Louis group set a world record for the longest baseball game ever pla…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz….zzzzzzzzzzzzz [Derrick Gould, St. Louis Post-Dispatch].
Vicente Padilla doesn’t have any friends. He is a sad panda [Jimmy Golen, AP].
Matt Holliday will replace his teammate Yadier Molina on the NL All-Star squad. Molina has been placed on the bereavement list [Jenifer Langosch, Twitter].
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus continues with “Bring Me the Head of…” series by asking for the severed rostral remains of Padres prospect Donavan Tate.
Francisco Liriano is good again [Jack Moore, FanGraphs].
Carlos Gonzalez’ brother is the reason he’s a star [Jorge Arangure Jr., ESPN].