When news of Justin Upton rejecting a trade to the Seattle Mariners broke yesterday evening, the number of people falling over themselves condemning Upton for being selfish or the Mariners for being delusional surprised me. “Seattle is on his no-trade list so this was never going to work” was a common sentiment.
Count me in the same school of thought as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and U.S.S. Mariner. Upton has limited no-trade protection in his contract, so he and his agent use it as a weapon. Not to protect themselves from constant drizzle but to get themselves the best situation they can.
In his excellent breakdown of the deal, Cameron points to the teams included on his no-trade last from July. At that time, Ken Rosenthal reported Upton would block trades to the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Cleveland. No Seattle on that list, but here we are. Upton and his representation licked their finger and stuck it into the wind, getting a sense of the trade winds and looking to leverage the situation as best they could.
While Upton blocked the trade for now, there is nothing to suggest a little extra money or a shuffling of the terms of his existing deal wouldn’t sweeten the deal. Perhaps converting a team option to a player option, as Cameron suggests, or tacking a couple extra years on the end.
The Mariners came up with a package of players to the liking of Kevin Towers – a talented group headlined by Taijuan Walker and also including Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor. Walker is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, an understandable price for a player as talented and young as Upton.
The Mariners now must do a little bit of math. How badly do they want Upton? Are they willing to sacrifice a year of control with Upton or give him more money in addition to the haul of young players headed to the desert? It is that question which will keep the deal alive for now. It might seem dead but, until he’s traded somewhere else, it ain’t.
The heavy lifting is over, it is up to the Mariners to decide if they want to go the extra mile to bring the player they desperately want into the fold.
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