Even without the Mariners out of the mix, supposedly the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves are still pursuing Upton. By no means do I suspect the Royals are a fourth, unnamed team in the hunt for Upton's services. I don't expect them to be either. The cold, hard truth for the Royals is, they've already spent their most alluring trade chip. Don't expect any sexy deals to be done the rest of the year, unless there's a team out there willing to wait on Bubba Starling or a package of prospects.
But the other day I brought up a hypothetical, pre-James Shields trade for the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton in exchange for the Royals' top 10 prospects. Based on the thousands of emails and comments I did (not) receive following that post, I figured now would be a good time to delve deeper into it in regard to Justin Upton.
In my last post, I failed to list the Royals' top 10 prospects they would have hypothetically had to part ways with. According to Baseball America, this is what that list would have been prior to trading for James Shields:
1. Wil Myers, OF
2. Kyle Zimmer, SP
3. Bubba Starling, OF
4. Yordano Ventura, SP
5. Jake Odorizzi, SP
6. Jorge Bonifacio, OF
7. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
8. Sam Selman, SP
9. Orlando Calixte, SS
10. Jason Adam, SP
For the sake of simplicity, since they're already gone along with Myers and Odorizzi, let's substitute SP Mike Montgomery for Calixte and 3B Patrick Leonard for Adam. Now, if you were running a team like the Royals, would you give up those 10 prospects for a young, proven, bona fide stud such as Stanton?
My thinking was the Marlins would use Stanton similar to how the Dallas Cowboys used Herschel Walker in trading him to the Minnesota Vikings for a King's ransom of players and draft picks. Of course, history shows the Cowboys couldn't have asked for a better return in rebuilding their franchise while the Vikings never achieved the success they hoped with Walker.
In much the same way, giving up 10 of your best prospects might mortgage your future. But as Bill James says: Everybody has prospects. In the Royals' case, they have a deep farm system. They've figured out how to draft better and how to find international talent. Even such a trade as the one I'm suggesting wouldn't be crippling. That's the difference between the NFL and MLB — if the Royals tried to win in the next three years, the depth of their prospect pool wouldn't immediately affect them at the Major League level. In fact, their greatest impact would merely be felt in limiting future trade possibilities.
In regard to Stanton, other than his injury concerns, I said he would well be worth a Brinks truck full of prospects, assuming the Marlins would also throw in a couple other veterans to help out in the near term, such as Ricky Nolasco. My reasoning was Stanton would push Jeff Francoeur out of the lineup completely and he would instantly become a franchise player to build a batting order around while lessening the pressure on guys like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Now, how differently should Justin Upton, who is obviously available, be viewed?
Upton is two years older than Stanton. He's a free agent in 2016 (a year earlier than Stanton). He'll make $9.75 million in 2013 and $38.5 million the next three years while Stanton is still arbitration-eligible. He posted a 2.5 WAR in 2012 compared to Stanton's 5.8 (despite injuries). That right there eliminates Upton from the small collection of players I'd sell the farm for.
However, nobody is saying the Diamondbacks are asking for the farm. They lost leverage when they signed OF Cody Ross. The Mariners have good prospects, but their elite ones are pitchers. No names were reported in today's potential trade. Maybe all the Diamondbacks are looking for is young pitching. If so, then the Royals aren't a good match anyway. But let's pretend Arizona is open to any good prospects, regardless of position.
If you were running the Royals, would you part with your five best remaining prospects? Zimmer, Starling, Ventura, Bonifacio and Mondesi? Pretty sure the Diamondbacks would have a hard time turning that down.
Sound like too much for the Royals to give up? It's a lot, I admit. But remember, the whole purpose of the James Shields trade was to shout from the most mediocre-sized mountain top that the Royals were trying to win now. I still can't take a team with Francoeur starting everyday as a serious contender. Replace him with a proven star like Upton, who could easily shake off a down 2012 with a change of scenery, and suddenly I'm intrigued. It sends a mixed signal for the Royals not to pursue a player like Upton, who is clearly available.
Again, maybe the Royals wouldn't be a good fit if they tried to go after Upton. Maybe Upton would turn them down just as he did the Mariners anyway. Maybe the Royals actually have made legitimate attempts to land Upton. Maybe they are as I write this.
In all likelihood, we'll never know for sure, but you and I both know what it's safe to assume. And once again I'm left doubting the creativity of the Royals' front office, as well as their true commitment to winning.
Fire Dayton Moore