An Upton Trade Would Be Unique

This afternoon’s chat was dominated by one subject – Justin Upton trade speculation. Roughly 90 percent of the questions submitted were queries about what he’s worth, why the Diamondbacks would even want to trade him to begin with, and – most popularly – what it would take for a particular team to get him. In fact, I’d say that most of the questions asked today followed some kind of “would Propects A, B, and C get Upton to Team X” pattern. In general, my feeling was that almost every suggestion underestimated Upton’s value. Here’s why.

Because of the types of players that are usually traded, we’ve become accustomed to trades having a fairly specific kind of structure. Deals for a big name player now usually fall into one of three categories.

1. One (or sometimes two) year rental – a free-agent-to-be is traded for prospects.
2. Cost-saving move – a team with limited resources gets worse but saves money.
3. Change of scenery – perceived disappointment gets to start over in a new organization.

Matt Holliday? Rental. Mark Teixeira? Rental twice. Miguel Cabrera? Cost savings. Alex Rodriguez, Dan Haren, and J.D. Drew? Cost savings and change of scenery. Johan Santana, Cliff Lee (three times), CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay? All rentals.

Justin Upton doesn’t fit into any of those buckets. He’s signed through 2015 at a rate that is a fraction of his actual value. His 2010 wasn’t as good as his 2009 season, but it’s still impossible to label a guy who put up +7.7 WAR at age 21 and 22 a disappointment.

We just don’t really have many contemporary examples of a guy like Upton being moved at this stage in his career to base expected returns on. You never see teams trade guys like this – not this young, not this cheap, and not this good. Probably the closest thing I could find would be Roberto Alomar getting moved from San Diego to Toronto, and he was dealt (with Joe Carter) for two established All-Stars in their primes in Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez.

In the absence of truly comparable deals, however, it seems like the common perception is to assume that a Justin Upton deal would look like the other big name trades we normally see. Most of the offers that were suggested were based around a couple of pitching prospects of varying quality, maybe an alright major league player, and sometimes a throw-in or two – exactly the kinds of deals we’re used to seeing for rentals, cost savers, or change of scenery trades.

Those are great offers for Zack Greinke or Adrian Gonzalez. That’s the kind of package those teams will be looking for. For Upton, though, the price has to be significantly higher.

At the minimum, I’d imagine we can all agree he’d get at least $100 million for the next five years if he were a free agent this winter, or twice what he’s owed. I think he’d get more than that, personally, but even if we work off the lower figure, we’re looking at $50 million in surplus value.

If you take Victor Wang’s estimates of prospect value, that’s something like a top-10 hitting prospect and a top-10 pitching prospect for Upton. Or, to put that into current player terms, that’s something like Mike Moustakas and Mike Montgomery from the Royals, and that’s at the low end of Upton’s value.

If you’re not a fan of the Royals, your organization probably doesn’t have two of the top-10 prospects in the game to begin with. Kansas City can make a good offer with a couple of guys from their farm system – most other teams will have to add a pretty good Major League player along with their best prospect in order to seriously get into the discussion.

Justin Upton will not come cheap. If Arizona trades him, it won’t be for a similar package to what other normal trades look like. They’re going to get a serious haul.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

160 Responses to “An Upton Trade Would Be Unique”

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  1. Rob says:

    Great write-up Dave. I’ve frankly been amazed by the firm stances some commenters across the internet have stubbornly dug into, like Braves fans insisting Teheran and Freeman would be off-limits and still be able to make a package.

    I’m also quite surprised the smoke didn’t seem to die off after the initial signal from yesterday and that trading Upton would be productive to the future plans of the DBacks, but that’s just me. It could get very interestiing.

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  2. theonemephisto says:

    Keeping up the “would this get him” line, what would the Red Sox take to get him. Is Buchholz and a top 5ish prospect (Kalish, Lowrie, Doubront, Kelly, Rizzo, etc.) and change in the ballpark? Could they get him without Buchholz, possibly in a deal with Bard and 3-4 other top 10 prospects? And would Theo do any of these trades (I have to think he wouldn’t)/SHOULD he do any of them?

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    • BullDurham says:

      “Is Buchholz and a top 5ish prospect (Kalish, Lowrie, Doubront, Kelly, Rizzo, etc.) and change in the ballpark?”


      “Could they get him without Buchholz, possibly in a deal with Bard and 3-4 other top 10 prospects?”


      Your spects aren’t that good, pal.

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      • Grant says:

        Bard and 3-4 other top 10 prospects are good enough to get the deal done? BullDurham is a classic Red Sox hater. “Bard plus 3-4 other top 10 prospects” could be Bard, Kelly, Kalish, Rizzo, and Iglesias, which most certainly would get a deal done.

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    • Creek Johnson says:

      When he says “top 10” he’s not talking about top 10 in a particular organization. He’s talking about in all of baseball. So no, the Red Sox cannot trade Bard with 3-4 other top 10 prospects because they don’t have 3-4 top 10 prospects.

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      • Joey says:

        “When he says “top 10? he’s not talking about top 10 in a particular organization. He’s talking about in all of baseball.”

        What the hell are you talking about? No he’s not.

        Bard, Kelly, Kalish, Rizzo, and Iglesias would get the deal done. Too bad they want Adrian more.

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      • Bubba says:

        Thank you.

        That’s why Dave wrote “If you’re not a fan of the Royals, your organization probably doesn’t have two of the top-10 prospects in the game to begin with.”

        Bard + 3 to 4 other Red Sox prospects is not good enough.

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  3. Blue says:

    On a Royals message board I proposed Butler + Montgomery + Collins as a starting point (thinking it was reasonable but light) and had people calling me insane.

    People don’t fully appreciate how valuable Upton is.

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  4. JFC says:

    I think he would and I think he should. Buchholz should be a 3-3.5 WAR pitcher for the next few years and entering his prime. I’d sell high on Lowrie and through in a fallen prospect like Lars Anderson, but I think the Sox would have to include more. Probably Rizzo or Dubront, too.

    Look, it’s a lot of potential to ship over there, but I believe that when you’re in an arms race with the Yankees, there is major value in having lots of WAR concentrated in one player. If you can get a guy who has potential to be 5 to 6 win guy consistently like Upton, then I think the Sox have to add him.

    On top of all that, as we Sox fans know, the ownership will be feeling the pressure to make a splash and it seems to me that Upton is the type of player that both Lucchino (who believes you need superstars) and Theo (who believes you need value) can get behind.

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  5. Andy S says:

    “At the minimum, I’d imagine we can all agree he’d get at least $100 million for the next five years if he was a free agent this winter”

    Yes, I would naturally pay 20 mil/5 years for a player coming off a 3 win season.

    There goes Dave Cameron again, saying ridiculous things for the sake of attention.

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    • phoenix says:

      i thought it was too high as well, but you don’t have to insult the man, just disagree respectfully.

      also i think that it might actually be fair, upon second inspection, because of upton’s age. he is so young to have done all this, that improvement in skill and physical ability that comes with maturation, combined with multiple years of MLB experience can make him a superstar. many players have the raw talent, but don’t have the experience to play to their potential until their raw athleticism has declined with age, but this is a chance at a guy who will have both the incredibly raw talent/potential and the years of experience to take advantage of that talent.

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      • Andy S says:

        I would have respectfully disagreed if he hadn’t said ” I’d imagine we can all agree he’d get at least $100 million for the next five years if he was a free agent this winter.” That phrasing is just presumptuous and obnoxious.

        You don’t have to assume we’d all agree on such a ludicrously high contract. There is absolutely no justification for a contract like that, for a guy who’s only broken 4 WAR once.

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      • Locke says:

        Err.. yea. I have to agree that’s the stuff that turns me off to Dave’s writing too.

        IF we can all agree that J Upton will perfom at or better than his, say, 30th percentile projections, then yes, he is worth 20/5. But there is a 30% chance, in my humble opinion, that he keeps whiffing way too much and plays merely average defense, leaving him at around 3-4 WAR per year… which is not worth 20/per.

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      • Andy S says:

        Also, the guy has gotten criticism time after time not to make bold assumptions all the time. The fact that he hasn’t learned at this point points to the most likely outcome, that he is choosing not to learn because his style of writing incites reaction.

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      • Locke says:

        I honestly think he does it to get inflated comment totals. There’d be no other reason to consistently stir things up like he does.

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      • Hank says:

        IUpton’s high WAR year (2009) came with a nice UZR buttressed by what appears to be an outlier for his arm (he was +4.6, as opposed to negative every other year)…

        If he is a 3-4 WAR/yr type player than 20mil is not a minimum… if he is an AVERAGE 5 WAR/yr played than 20 mil probably also is not exactly a minimum either (it might represent a little underpayment, but not terribly so).

        Yes he should improve, but what are people using as his baseline? And does the ArmR in his high WAR year impact people’s assessment more than they realize?

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      • fredsbank says:

        dave cameron doesnt read the responses and criticisms to his posts, or else he surely would respond to them at some point, and maybe even change the way he does things; he engenders 10x the negativity of the other FG writers put together

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      • dw says:

        You all don’t have to read Dave’s posts. Hell, write a Greasemonkey script to suppress them in Fangraphs. It’s not hard to do.

        And yet you keep coming back here, like kneejerk conservatives who have to post their anti-Obama screeds on any newspaper article’s comment section.

        In the words of the Canadian poet and philosopher William Shatner, “Get a life.”

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      • fredsbank says:

        you dont see anything wrong with the fact that the lead person on this website, which is supposed to be about knowledge and objective data, never takes time to respond to criticism of him and his ideas? i’ve been following this site for 7-8 months, and have seen dave post in the comments section like twice, both to acknowledge grammar errors he made. his continual non-acknowledgment is ridiculous, and so are you for suggesting that there is nothing wrong with it.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:


        Oh yes, Dave Cameron definitely reads responses and he does respond. I can tell you from first hand experience he can be quite nasty about it too!

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      • Andy S says:

        Yeah, I remember him being very rude to people who contradicted his all-star ballot.

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    • Chase says:

      Yes, Upton is worth 20 mil a year easily. Did you read the article? Go ahead, read it.

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      • Andy S says:

        Yep, I read it. I especially enjoyed the lack of argumentation for a 100 million dollar contract.

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      • Andy S says:

        Except the argument is not convincing because rarely do players get 20 million/5 years for being a projected 5 win player over those 5 years, and it requires that you buy into some really speculative WAR claims.

        Players don’t get paid according to some linear WAR/year model. The linearity assumption absolutely kills it – players get scrunched toward the median salary quite a bit.

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      • Teej says:

        Not too many 23-year-olds hit free agency, though. Most free agents don’t get paid like 5-win players for years to come because they’re in their late 20s or early 30s.

        It’s all speculative, of course, but I could see a player with Upton’s skills, at his age, getting a deal like that.

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      • Andy S says:

        Exactly, it’s all speculative, which is exactly my point – NOBODY knows how much he’d get, and I think he’d get less, so, Mr. Cameron, don’t put me into your world where your crazy hypotheticals match everybody’s assumptions.

        The fact that we don’t have any models for a 23 year old player only exacerbate the ludicrousness of trying to guarantee a price tag.

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    • TJ says:

      There goes Andy S again, saying ridiculous things for the sake of attention.

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      • Andy S says:

        Except I’m arguing AWAY from making bold assumptions, so…

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      • CMC_Stags says:

        “There goes Dave Cameron again, saying ridiculous things for the sake of attention.”

        That would be a bold statement that includes an assumption about someone else’s motives…

        A.K.A. a “bold assumption”

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    • Fred says:

      He’s scaling for inflation, and if WAR inflates like he supposes it will then it’s a fine assumption (well his value at over 100m/5, who knows what a team would pay him at 23). However at present the value of WAR is relatively stagnant along with the economy so its a bit too soon to know if its going to inflate that much (6 million per win in 5 years).

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      • B N says:

        Why should inflation of WAR even matter for trading purposes? If Upton’s WAR inflates, doesn’t everybody else’s? It seems like thinking in money terms when they’re starting in WAR terms is a dumb idea. It just confuses the matter. One should be thinking of trading WAR for WAR.

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    • Ben Hall says:


      The age is the thing here. There is no free agent that we’ve ever seen that has anywhere close to the lack of risk that Upton presents right now. He is 23 years old–a 5 year contract would not be paying for any of his decline seasons. The tiny number of players who get to the majors as young as Upton hit free agency when they’re 26. A 5 year deal is already going into their expected decline years. So free agent contracts that we’ve seen need to be recalibrated with this in mind.

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    • Bam says:

      What’s the problem with him saying “I’d imagine we can all agree” when expressing his opinion? He’s just speculating. You don’t have to take offense to the nature of his remark. Even if you don’t agree with him, his comments do not warrant such an antagonistic reaction. Sure, I think his projection was a bit of a stretch as well. And if you disagree with Dave and provide reasonable arguments to support your opinion, then your comments would be embraced. Making unfounded claims about the motives of a writer will not further intelligent discussion at all.

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      • Andy S says:

        I wouldn’t make that reaction if this weren’t Dave’s modus operandi on this website.

        It’s an arrogant, obnoxious, and egotistical statement, to think that what you think is what everybody thinks.


        I understand that point of view, but there is nothing to suggest that Justin Upton will be any better than he is now. His K rate is at an astronomical 30%. His power is the lowest it’s been in three years. He only plays corner outfield, which is a non-premium position. Yes, he plays good defense, and maybe good enough to move to CF, but answer me this: would you pay $20 million per year for 5 years of Curtis Granderson at his current level? Because that is essentially the skillset Justin Upton has.

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        “I understand that point of view, but there is nothing to suggest that Justin Upton will be any better than he is now.”


        To name just one thing.

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      • andy s. says:

        Logical fallacy, you’re implying that it’s a safe assumption that because he’s young he’s almost surely going to get at least 2 war better, where that jump is dependent on so many factors more than age.

        Who wouldn’t have said something similar of frenchy a few years ago?

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        “Logical fallacy, you’re implying that it’s a safe assumption that because he’s young he’s almost surely going to get at least 2 war better, where that jump is dependent on so many factors more than age.”
        I don’t think you know what “logical fallacy” means.
        Also: you said “there is nothing to suggest that Justin Upton will be any better than he is now.” I have to believe the standard for a fact being “something to suggest” is significantly lower than the standard for that fact to be a “safe assumption.”
        FWIW, I do think it’s a *fairly* safe assumption — nearly every player who does what Upton has done prior to age 23 goes on to become a superstar. And I think Francoeur is a terrible example; many, many of us were dubious about his ability to have sustained success in the big leagues a few years ago, including, I’d guess, most of the readers of this site. But that’s beside the point. The point is that to look at a 23 year old who’s already had one star-level and one solidly above-average MLB season and say that there’s “nothing to suggest” he will continue to get better is ludicrous and ignores pretty much all of baseball history.

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      • Andy S. says:

        You’re right. Wrong choice of words. Still, my point is there is enough risk involved to not suggest that he is worth 20 mil/ year over 5.

        One huge reason is the sample size for this is very small.

        Another problem is Upton’s skillset is fragile because it’s very reliant on speed, as his offense and defense are tied to it (reason for high BABIP, for example).

        It is a fallacy because you’re assuming that players who are young tend to have more room for development; I am under the impression it is players with few years in the MLB.

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        Speed isn’t nearly as volatile a skill as it’s made out to be.

        Your impression just isn’t right, as far as I can tell. If you look at a list of guys who have done well and/or just accumulated a bunch of PA at very young ages, it reads like a list of all-time greats with the occasional Dick Hoblitzell thrown in for laughs. I haven’t done a big study of it or anything, but I’m pretty confident that age ties to growth potential a lot more strongly than does MLB experience.

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      • Andy S says:

        Well if you can’t give me any evidence then I don’t buy it, obviously.

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  6. Ethan says:

    I mean they’re not the Royals, but Teheran and Freeman wouldn’t get it done?

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    • Padman Jones says:

      I wrote about this yesterday at Chop n Change. I proposed Teheran, Delgado, Kimbrel and Cody Johnson for Upton and Mark Reynolds, and wouldn’t hesitate to throw in Mike Minor or Brandon Beachy.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        So you’d trade arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, as well as a B+ prospect in Delgado, along with the teams likely 2011 closer and #5 starter for a guy who has only really played the corner outfield positions, which Heyward and now Prado will be filling. Reynolds would be nice to have in 2012 because Chipper will be gone by then, but he’s got no spot in 2011.

        I understand Upton’s value, but making that trade when your team is built to win now, as well as the future just doesn’t make any sense to me. Lock up Uggla and Prado is Chipper’s replacement at 3B and go after a defensive center fielder. Don’t break the farm apart, as well as the big-league roster for one guy you really don’t even need….

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      • Tom says:

        Is Upton really that good or just a Chase Field mirage?

        Home: 295/381/524
        Road: 250/323/418

        Put him in Petco and his stats might look like Wil Venable’s. Or is it possible that GM’s won’t care about his splits?

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      • fredsbank says:

        LOLCOORZ oh wait…

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        Except that Prado has no business being a left fielder, and isn’t going to be around for nearly as long as Upton is. If you can pair Upton with Heyward in the corners for the foreseeable future and all you have to give up is arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, a B+ prospect, a one-inning guy and a #5 starter — and then you can trade Prado to a team who can acutally use him and get something back — I’d think you would feel like you just won the lottery.

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      • JT Grace says:

        The Braves would have no place to play Mark Reynolds since Chipper isn’t retiring. I think Teheran, Delgado, Kimbrel, with Beachy as a throw-in should be plenty enough for Upton but Dave Cameron seems to think that the Diamondbacks will command a lot more than that for him. As a Braves fan, I don’t know that I would even give up that much for him. And I certainly wouldn’t give up Tommy Hanson, Teheran, AND Freeman as he proposed yesterday.

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  7. Jimmy the Greek says:

    Upton, if he is traded, will go for less than Dave Cameron is predicting, no question.

    Does it worry anyone else that the team that knows his health, work ethic, and skillset the best seems willing to trade him, despite everyone saying his value is virtually off the charts and they’d be crazy to trade him? Does his brother’s seeming regression and injury history play any part in your projection?

    Just raising some questions that seem to be worth asking here. Upton is obviously a great player with tons of potential. But I’m not sure there aren’t some red flags or questions to be raised here.

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    • Heather says:

      The last person I remember Dave saying was worth a lot more than people thought was Dan Haren, due to his great peripherals and team-friendly contract.

      Then Haren was traded to the LAA for a pu-pu platter.

      True, Kevin Towers isn’t Jerry DiPoto, but it seems like there just MIGHT be greater market forces at work here besides strict sabermetric analysis might indicate.

      I’ll happily admit I’m wrong if Upton gets traded for two-three blue chips and an established major leaguer. We’ll see, I suppose, and that’s the fun of making these guesses.

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      • DIVISION says:

        I think you already said it: Kevin Towers isn’t Jerry DiPoto.

        If the D-backs trade Upton, they will get a H-A-U-L from whatever team ponies up. That much is certain. Most of the trade ideas I’ve seen bandied about here are ridiculous. Teams are paying for savings on the contract, his current production and the future potential increase in production. As has already been stated, nobody this good gets traded this young, so we’ve never seen this before. Upton > R. Alomar, so that comparison isn’t valid.

        Having seen the movie “Heathers”, it doesn’t surprise me that you’re this off in your analysis.

        There are only about five or six teams in MLB that have the high level prospects and one impact starter the D-backs would even want.

        I don’t necessarily think it’s New York or Boston here and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a mega-trade involving a small or mid-market team with a good farm system but not alot of money.

        Of course, if it comes down to a trade war between NY and Boston, the haul will be larger……..and alot of you will be completely shocked. But you shouldn’t be.

        Upton’s perceived value is higher than his actual value, but not by as much as you think.

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    • bender says:

      His brother’s injury history is pretty important. I mean just the other day my brother broke his arm, and mine hasn’t felt the same since.

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      • Locke says:

        Interesting that this got so many pluses. Seems to be a salient point if you ask me. If someone can truly be injury prone, then logic would dictate it’s atleast partially genetic. If I told you that you could generate a near genetic clone of a player and have them play a million games, would you consider that performance to carry any predictive value when talking about injuries? I would.

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      • dw says:

        You mean like the Ripkens. I mean, Bill Ripken couldn’t keep himself off the DL his entire time up, so clearly Cal Ripken was radioactive because he was so injury prone!

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        My name is Bender Bending Rodrrrrrriquez.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        For the Ripkens, I’m trying to not stress the importance of small sample size. However, think about what your doctors ask you at the hospital, about any family history problems. Sure you’re unlikely to have the same exact problems (in most cases) but it’s always good to check it out. For injuries though…. I gotta say it’s not as important as heart attacks or high blood pressure, but if it isn’t something you think about even as a passing glance (whether it has any effect on your decision) you’d be stupid.

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      • dw says:

        The Ripkens are an extreme outlier, but there are other cases of siblings who were oft injured while their brothers weren’t.

        BJ’s most serious injury was the labrum tear. It could be genetic, but labrums also tear from overwork or overexertion. You just can’t project that onto Justin Upton, because there just isn’t a lot of proof that genetics play a role.

        Heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, Huntington’s, yeah, we can find the markers now. But no one has gone looking for the labrum tear gene, because, honestly, a labrum tear isn’t going to kill you, so why look for it?

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      • dw says:

        Of course, then you read that Justin Upton’s having issues with his non-throwing shoulder, too….

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      • B N says:

        “BJ’s most serious injury was the labrum tear.”

        I’m so glad this wasn’t the other way around…

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    • M.Twain says:


      Too bad your points were dismissed so lightly, I thought they were very good points. If you look at BJ’s best year and compare it to Justin’s, it’s striking how similar they are (try that with Cal and Billy). I don’t really have much to add because I think you covered it pretty well, but, $20 million a year over five years is too much too soon. FWIW, BJ put up 8.9 WAR at age 22 and 23.

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    • JT Grace says:

      Great post, Jimmy. I agree. I just don’t see the Diamondbacks getting what Dave Cameron has suggested. I can’t see the Braves giving up a Tommy Hanson or the Phillies giving up a Cole Hamels….that is just craziness. They will definitely get a haul of prospects for him but I don’t see another GM giving up a young upper tier major league pitcher PLUS top prospects for him.

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  8. JRoss says:

    I don’t see why the Dbacks are thinking about this. When are they planning on competing? Upton helps now and in the future. Something must be fishy.

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    • bender says:

      It does seem as though something is missing from the big picture, but Dan Haren was a (relative) bargain. Perhaps their interim GM is just bad at evaluating his own players.

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  9. Chicago Mark says:

    Kudos to Jimmy the Greek. I like the way you’re thinking. Dave mentions the possibility the DBacks might see JU not reaching his potential. If that’s the case they might very well sell lower than Dave is suggesting.

    Furthermore, why would the Royals, or any team for that matter trade two of the top prospects in the game AND a major league ready player for him. I’d much rather have Montgomery, Moustakas and Butler in 3-4 years than looking to trade JU when he’s readying for free agency again. And that’s if JU reaches his potential. If he doesn’t it’s a bad trade. And in so far as Buchholz is concerned, he has great upside still and is under team control for a few more years also. The Red Sox don’t need to speculate on JU. They can have Buchholz AND pay for an outfielder if needs be.

    I just don’t see anyone giving up what Dave is suggesting the DBacks MIGHT want. I also see a higher probability for the DBacks selling lower if they don’t think he’ll reach his potential.

    I see JU staying in Ari as that’s the team that most needs him AND also needs to keep payroll under control.

    WOW, that’s a lot of words.

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    • Dan says:

      Agreed–there is an awful lot of projection in Dave’s asessment of Upton’s future value no matter how you slice it. The fact that the team with the most information on him is willing deal him? Something funny seems to be going on.

      The other thing about an Upton trade vs. soething like a Greinke trade is that Greinke provides elite value right now. It seems that barring a big jump in production, Upton’s best years as a player are more than a year or two away. Given the uncertainty in virtually every major league baseball player’s ability 5 years for now, the D-backs are unlikely to get full value on that projected increase in skills from what Upton currently is.

      It’s not that I disagree with Dave’s assessment of his future value; in fact I think somewhere obve the “good-player, not elite” category is the most likely outcome. I just don’t think any GM’s are willing to pay in prospects as if that $70 million in surplus value is a certainty. If the D-backs make a deal, I think the return will look more like $40-50 million in surplus value because the buying GM is going to want a discount on the amount of surplus value Upton has that comes from projected improvement.

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  10. Trev says:

    What’s this, an actual use for the Trade Value charts? The Trade Value charts are done in July of that year.

    Justin Upton’s rank:
    2008: 18th
    2009: 3rd
    2010: 11th

    Thanks to that 3rd place ranking in 2009 here’s the list of players who have had greater trade value than Upton in all three years: Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria

    Of the 2010 Top 10 I could see only the Nationals giving up #3 Strasburg (who would go on the DL 10 days after the article was posted) to get Upton.

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  11. Steve says:

    The Royals may have the minor league talent to pull off a deal, but if I were the Cincinnati Reds, I would take a serious run at acquiring Upton. The Reds have tons of starting pitching and could afford to give up one or two young arms along with Yonder Alonso and another prospect for Upton. If the Reds were to move Cueto, Homer Bailey, Alonso, and another top prospect (Frazier?) for Upton, they would still have enough pitching (or at least just an FA signing away) and clearly the best lineup in the National League. Maybe the D-Backs turn around and demand that Chapman or Bruce is in the deal, but if it is volume they want, the Reds are in a good position to oblige.

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  12. BullDurham says:

    Hellboy & Jennings

    That gets it done, no?

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  13. dnangle4 says:

    No idea how well you know Cardinals prospects, but if we offered Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, Allen Craig and then a low minors power arm or two like Reifer or Joe Kelly, that would have to extremely tempt the DBacks right? Jaime Garcia just had a tremendous year in the bigs, and Shelby Miller is a 10-12 overall prospect in the minors depending on who is doing the rankings. We could potentially afford him and a Pujols extension by declining Carp’s 2012 option, which would time out perfectly with when Pujols’ extension would kick in.

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    • Steveospeak says:

      Actually I think that would be a pretty good deal of Garcia, Miller, Craig plus 2 for Upton (depending on the two). Miller might be a ways away, but Garcia would be at the top of the D-Backs rotation and Craig would start in LF/RF. The other two prospects would need to be pretty good (maybe not top guys) but I think it is in the ballpark.

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      • fredsbank says:

        but if the cardinals did that, their only middle-of-the-order hitters would be right handed…

        and would someone who strikes out a ton, like upton does, really be a great fit with holliday and pujols, who make contact far more often?

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  14. DrBGiantsfan says:

    The Giants played the D’Backs quite a few times this year. The kid has a ton of talent, that’s for sure. Based on what I saw, though, you have to wonder about his commitment to the fundamentals. He made numerous, not just a few but numerous, misplays on balls hit to RF that literally cost his team the game. He also appeared to be lost at the plate most of the season. The fact that in spite of all that he put up decent overall numbers is a testament to his raw talent, but I can see why the D’Backs might be starting to think he may never completely harness all that talent.

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  15. Josh says:

    One thing strikes me. If Moustakas and Montgomery is the low end of Upton’s value, then what team can afford him? It seems like there are only three teams which could provide actual value without giving up their whole farm system. And why would you trade multiple players with a high ceiling for one player with a slightly higher ceiling? For example, the Rays could offer Jennings and Hellickson, but why would they? 5 years of Upton for cheap (but not nothing) vs. 3 years of plus defense from a potentially great leadoff hitter at league minimum and 3 years of a potential ace at league minimum, and then both of them still below market value due to arbitration. If all three players were to reach their potential, the combination of Jennings and Hellickson will provide more WAR than Upton alone, and for less money the next three or four years. I don’t see the point in trading multiple players which could provide lots of value for one player who could provide lots of value.

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  16. Kimo says:

    I must confess that I am not completely knowledgeable about WAR and some other measurements of performance. But I do think something is very off in the valuation process if on one hand we say how valuable ($100M) Upton is, and on the other hand no rumored trade package comes near that amount of value.

    Again I confess that I do not totally understand these measurements fully but previous trades (Haren especially) and others mentioned in the article seem to have to justify why the value measurements did not equal the pre trade suggested worth. Perhaps MLB does not use or appreciate WAR either?

    It is my opinion that Uptons value is decreased due to his long term contract not enhanced and that if Arizona truly wants top notch prospects they will have to put some money into the deal to compensate for the long term uncertainty that Uptons contract creates. We have seen before that the real currency now in baseball appears to be pre arbitration MLB talent and payroll flexibility. In fact, financial flexibility was cited by the Diamondbacks in the Haren deal as justification.

    Thanks for the chance to express a contrary viewpoint and I will appreciate comments

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  17. Scrapper says:

    If Arizona is shopping Upton, then we need to consider the various possibilities:

    1) Either Arizona sees some substantial risks with Upton’s health, make-up, work habits, etc., and has decided that Upton will never reach superstar level or
    2) Arizona is grossly overreacting to a real disappointing season last year.

    Given this uncertainty, teams would likely be real careful about giving up 2 or more of their best prospects. Teams would likely find themselves asking “why would Arizona trade the guy unless there is a real problem here?” and “what do they know that we don’t know?” As for Upton’s hypothetical free agent salary, I would think that teams would think long and hard about paying six figures to a player who has not proven that he is a future star. Of course, Upton could easily dispel these doubts by having a great season in 2011.

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    • Jimmy the Greek says:

      Exactly. Dave’s logic seems to fail on its own terms. If Upton is as valuable as he says he is, and if his contract is so friendly, but he also claims then in his chat that he thinks the DBacks are serious about trading him, something is very, very off. Either Towers and the front office are idiots (possible, but unlikely), or they know something others don’t about Upton’s value (much more probable, considering that they are in the position to know the most about their player).

      It’s possible the DBacks think they can get MORE total value out of a trade than Upton will provide, but the very fact that they’re making him available will raise questions about Upton for precisely the reason laid out above, and will thus lower his trade value, making it very unlikely the DBacks could get as much as Dave claims they should. Thus, the fact that they’re still making him available indicates that, if we assume they’re rational actors, his value is lower to the people who know him the best then Dave assumes it is. Which means either their assessment of value is off, Dave’s is off, or something is wrong with Upton to them. Frankly, I’m voting the last option.

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      • Josh Amaral says:

        I certainly understand your point, however you have to look at it from the Diamondbacks perspective too.

        We’ll assume that they know how valuable Upton is. For the sake of argument, he has a great work ethic, he’s very healthy, etc., etc..

        They have a lot of holes as a team. Having 5 WAR in RF but 1 WAR at every other position isn’t going to get you very far. They’re trying to, essentially, parlay that superstar player into, say, five above-average players that are cost controlled at an even cheaper rate.

        If they got Buchholz, Doubront, Rizzo, Iglesias, and Kalish, they’d have a 1 or 2 starter in Buchholz and a starting OF in Kalish. Doubront would be valuable in either the rotation or bullpen, AND you’re sitting on a ton of potential value in Rizzo and Iglesias, as well as the future output of Buchholz/Doubront/Kalish as they hit their prime. All while you’re paying them, combined, less than you’re paying Upton annually, even if it is very cheap.

        They’re not trying to trade Upton because he has problems. I don’t think they will trade him. They know his value. But if they can get more value spread out more evenly, they’d be a better team, and that’s why they’d trade him.

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      • DIVISION says:

        Towers is overhauling the organization from the ground up.

        Trading Upton makes sense if it nets a major haul in terms of #1 prospects and one impact everyday player.

        If Reynolds would have had a better year, he would have been traded already. Upton has more value, plus his team-friendly contract and potential is unmatched in MLB right now in terms of value.

        Dave is merely stating what most GM’s already know. It’s not so much that Arizona doesn’t think Upton would pan out, but finding out whether the net gain now and in the future in terms of value to the organization is worth dealing him.

        It’s common sense, IMO.

        A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, unless that bird is Justin Upton.

        Upton will net a flock of birds from some team and Towers knows it.

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  18. Brian says:

    Seems Greinke+Gordon for Upton is a fair deal.

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    • JT Grace says:

      If the DBacks are wanting young cost controlled players they wouldn’t want Greinke. He could be traded for prospects and then those prospects flipped in a three team trade. No one will trade anything for Gordon so they wouldn’t want him at all.

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  19. Marc says:

    This got me wondering. Has there ever been a player who was ranked in the 15-20 range in your top players with the most trade value that was actually dealt within the next year or so?

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    • Marc says:

      Shoot, Dan Haren…

      Anyone else?

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      • Jimmy the Greek says:

        And what did Haren bring back in return?

        I don’t know if Upton will be traded–he probably won’t. But I can guarantee if he does, he will return less than Dave is projecting in this column.

        If he gets traded, Dave will likely write a column talking about how the team that got Upton got him in a steal, and how Arizona didn’t get enough in return.

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  20. Keith Santee says:

    Towers is committed to rebuilding the bullpen and adding a closer, and the latter he said would more than likely come via a trade rather than the free-agent market. He’d also like another starting pitcher, a left fielder and more bench strength. The D-backs are also committed to cutting the player payroll from $75.5 million at the start of this past season to about $60 million in 2011. “I’d like to compete and hopefully win the division in 2011. So any move that we make is going to be for more Major League-ready players. I’m not looking to acquire A-ball prospects right now.”

    So let start with Soria as the main part of this trade package. His remaining contract including club options totals $26.75 million through 2014. Only $4.75 million is guaranteed for next year and if the 2012 option is not picked up. While Justin Upton contracts runs from 2011 -2015 and has a total guaranteed value of $49.5 million 11:$4.25M, 12:$6.75M, 13:$9.75M, 14:$14.25M, 15:$14.5M). He also has a limited no-trade protection and may block deals to four clubs.

    Soria would address his search for a closer and salaries for next year are about the same.

    As far as reducing payroll, this has already been accomplished with the departures of Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Rodrigo Lopez, Kris Benson, Adam Laroche, Mike Hampton, Aaron Heilman, Connor Jackson, Chad Qualls and Edwin Jackson.

    Players eligible for arbitration includes Joe Saunders, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson and Miguel Montero. Players with signed contracts for 2011 include Chris Young – CF (2011-2013 $32 million with $1.5 million buyout for 2014 – otherwise $11 million club option) and Mark Reynolds – 3B (2011-2012 $13 million with $.5 million buyout for 2013 – otherwise $11 million club option) and Geoff Blum – UT (2011-2012 $2.7 million)

    I do not see Towers trading any of his salary arbitration guys. He might be interested in moving Chris Young but his contract seems pretty high for a career .241 hitter. Mark Reynolds is going no where. With over 200 strikeouts a season and a batting average under the Mendosa line last year, he is pretty much untradeable unless they eat a lot of his contract.

    So what else is it going to take to make this attractive? In looking at their depth charts, I am not impressed with their personnel at 1B, LF, 3B and relief pitching. You could offer Clint Robinson (AA Triple Crown Winner) as a 1B candidate to compete with Brandon Allen. You could offer a choice between Wilson Betemit and Josh Fields as a possible bench player and to replace Mark Reynolds if they do something with him. As far as outfielders, I would offer a choice between Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco, and Jarrod Dyson. As far as relief pitchers, I would offer a choice between Philip Humber and Greg Holland.
    All of the latter candidates have low contract values and addressed the Diamondbacks immediate needs.

    I would love to see us move about 4-5 players off of our 40 man roster and use the slots to protect some more players before the Rule 5 draft. Maybe we could keep one open to take another Soria type player.
    Just a thought!

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    • Bill@TPA says:

      This can’t be serious, can it? Hoping they can get to Towers just after he’s suffered a concussion or something?

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    • JT Grace says:

      That is the worst Upton proposal I have read yet. The Royals have a boatload of upper tier prospects. It will take a lot of them to get Upton….not bottom feeders like Gregor Blanco, Wilson Betemit, etc.,

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    • DIVISION says:

      It’s going to take alot more than what you mentioned there to net Upton.

      I’m not even sure the Braves even have enough high end prospects to interest the D-backs.

      Only a few teams have the possible pieces.

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  21. NBarnes says:

    I think everybody mentioning the Haren trade is off base. The Haren trade was one of the worst and most widely-mocked trades in recent memory, specifically because it was so obviously lopsided. Seems to me like Towers would hit the ‘Undo’ button on that one in a second if he had the power. It hardly sets any kind of precedent for trading Upton.

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    • DIVISION says:

      Towers didn’t make the Haren trade. DiPoto did.

      It was more of a salary dump than a fair market trade.

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      • Kimo says:

        As this may be. It really seems that Arizona is trying to get the payroll much lower; note also the Reynolds rumors.

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  22. Ari Collins says:

    To the people who think Upton wouldn’t get $100 million: what do you think Crawford is going to get? Now imagine if Crawford was entering his prime instead of leaving it, with potential to add power.

    For those who don’t buy the comparison: Crawford’s a career .296/.337/.444 hitter, and Upton’s at .272/.352/.471. The added OBP and SLG come at the price of some baserunning and defense, of course, but Upton’s no slouch in either category himself.

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    • joe says:

      Some defense and some baserunning?
      – Upton has 38 SB’s the last 2 years combined (and has ~70% success rate)… that’s a bad single year for Crawford (and he’s at about 81-82%)
      – Crawford has a UZR/150 of just under 15 for his career, Upton’s BEST year is under 10 and his career average is 2.3 (though in fairness this is impacted significantly by 1 year)

      Also consider the park with that slash line… look at Upton’s home/road splits. Upton’s career OPS is .752 away from AZ, .902 at home (he’s got a 41pt wOBA split as well)

      I think the issue many have is the 100mil MINIMUM tag as if that is the floor… while he might fetch 100mil in the open market, I don’t think it’s a certainty and a floor as Dave suggests. Once again this seems like hyperbole to support his position rather than just say he might fetch ~100mil/5yrs on the open market, he says at a minimum so his conclusion can be couched as a “worst case” (or conservative in his view) and can not be debated.

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      • Ari Collins says:

        Hey there!

        Yeah, the baserunning and defense definitely make a difference! But you’re still talking about one win on defense, probably less on baserunning (I’m just guessing on the baserunning, I’m too lazy to look at baserunning stats right now), and don’t forget that you have to make a positional adjustment between LF and RF.

        Offense-wise, using H/R splits, especially single-season, is a bad idea when trying to adjust for park, due to small sample size and, more importantly, the fact that nearly every player hits better at home regardless of what their park’s like. Park factors are a much better idea, which of course show a significant difference between TB and ARI, though not as significant as that single season Upton split. (And TB is actually well suited for Crawford, thanks to its triple-increasing nature!)

        Anyway, my point is that with the increased offense, Upton’s at the least close to Crawford in present value (and I’d argue better, but at the least close). Then you factor in the fact that Upton’s got ridiculous upside and Crawford’s all downside (athletic players age well, but still), and I think Upton would get MORE than Crawford on the FA market. And Crawford’s absolute floor is (the consensus says) at least 6/100.

        You might have a problem with how confident Dave sounds of his opinion, but the argument for Upton to be worth 5/100 is pretty damn strong.

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      • joe says:

        His career home road splits (4 years which are ~3 seasons of games), are absoltuely no different…. The league average hitter does not post a +160OPS at home.

        His offense should improve some but some of that expectation that Dave and others are building in may be offset by taking him out of AZ (who knows how much).

        So while Upton may improve, the 5/100 MINIMUM implies he will average out at ~4.5 WAR (again minimum) over the next 5 years. Possible? Sure. Minimum starting point that is not up for debate?

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  23. bookbook says:

    Isn’t the obvious parallel the gentleman who did hit free agency at age 24? Admittedly A-Rod had already accomplished more than Upton has, but he got $250 million dollars. $250 million!

    In defense of Dave: $250 million!

    On the other hand, you don’t trade Upton and get full value, unless you really aren’t planning on trading him and the Yankees come to you out of desperation, or something. The Dbacks evidently would be at least as happy without him as with him going forward. They will not get what Upton is worth in exchange. Nope, ya ain’t getting Ackley and Pineda. Not going to happen.

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    • joe says:

      In addition to needing to ignore the performance (and it ain’t minor- ARod had accumulated 36.7 WAR, Upton 7.7WAR) you neglect to mention that the ARod contract was 10 years…. so it would be ~125 for 5 years (though that’s not adjusting for inflation)

      So I guess if you ignore actual performance and length of contract, it’s an ‘obvious’ parallel… Was your comment meant as sarcasm?

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  24. zoned says:

    dave cameron massively overrating a player again and running too far with it

    cant wait for the “matt wieters is worth $150 million in added value” post next july when the orioles are talking about giving up on him

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  25. Kurt says:

    Let’s just get a couple things out here…

    1) The typical return you get for a guy like Greinke (with 2 years until he’s a F.A.) includes the assumption that you’ll get two first round picks. However, because Upton’s contract leaves him 5 years from free agency, it’s more time for a major injury to happen, he could regress, not a lot of players are good enough that you can offer arb. on a $15MM a year contract and feel confident that they will reject arb., and more importantly, there’s no guarantee that the labor agreement will still be the same and include two draft picks should Upton sign somewhere else after his contract expires.

    If Greinke is worth 4 players, we’ll say Kelly, Bowden, Reddick, and Lowrie. Than Bowden and Reddick are the implied return of two first round picks for offering arb. So the real value is Kelly and Lowrie if you assume that you can’t get draft pick compensation. With Upton, you can’t include draft pick comp. in the trade value, so in that regard he’s worth less because his contract extends too far.

    2) It’s all well and good to throw around Reggie Jackson and Ruben Sierra comps., but let’s look at a more realistic comp, BJ Upton. Rarely can we look at family heritage to determine the future of a guy, but BJ has regressed from the career arc that he started on and that’s far more relavent than what Reggie Jackson did 35 years ago. It’s the argument of nature vs. nurture, but clearly there’s something about the work ethic or the adaptability of BJ that leaves more question marks than answers. For this reason, along with the contract being significantly backloaded, it offers reason for pause and hurts the return value that Arizona can expect for Justin.

    3) We keep talking about Justin Upton as this golden ticket, but then everyone asks, why would Kevin Towers be trying to sell him now, and then without stopping to contemplate this question more thoroughly, they move onto the excitement and potential of penciling Upton into their favorite lineup. Here’s the catch 22, if he’s really this golden ticket and his contract is so great, than Kevin Towers has no reason to trade him. For him to trade such a valuable commodity says that Towers doesn’t believe he’ll reach the potential Dave outlined, and more importantly, if a trade means you don’t believe in him, than to trade him means his value goes down. How can you tell someone else to give away the farm and justify it by saying he’ll be the next Reggie Jackson and his contract is great, without them asking, than why are you trading him.

    4) Saying you want x, y, and z for Upton is all well and good, but nobody actually pays the sticker price, except for the truly rich or truly stupid. Whatever Towers is asking for, expect 3/5 of that to actually happen. From all reports, he wants 3 MLB ready players (assumedly cost controlled) and 2 prospects. He wants two guys to be “sure things” and three decent pieces. He would like to fill SP, CP, and OF. Going back to my 3/5 rule. He’ll either get 5 players with solid upside, or he’ll get 3 really nice pieces. but he’s not going to touch what he’s asking for in the newspapers. It’s just a starting point, like when Boras says $90MM/5yrs. for Beltre at 31, knowing that the best he got Beltre, coming off a better year, pre-Obama-nomics, at the age of 26 was $64MM/5yrs. All I can say is that I wouldn’t want to play poker with Boras and Towers at the same time. Even when they’re bluffing, you almost think they’re serious.

    5) Cliff Lee was already one of the best pitchers in baseball when he was traded, while Justin Upton is still an unfinished product coming off a year of regression. You can say that Upton isn’t the same as Lee, but I’d say that if you look at the time when Lee was traded to Philly, he was a 100% guarantee to be a type A free agent and would net two 1st round picks, however Upton is not a guarantee to get arb. at $14.5MM after the 2015 season. More importantly, Lee was a polished product and a guaranteed staff ace, Upton is still more of a prospect with potential than he is a finished product. So when we talk about what a guy is worth two years from free agency, realize that we know what we are getting for the most part, but with Upton, the risk of what he might never be, takes away from the return you can expect as the team trading him.

    Say whatever you want about my analysis, but everyone always shoots for the moon and there will always be people there to justify the attempt, but when push comes to shove, the results are far less aww inspiring than what you might have guessed. If I had to wager a guess, I’d imagine that the D-backs will get ONE can’t miss prospect, ONE B+ prospect, ONE C+/B- prospects, and two major league pieces. But the uncertainty of the draft compensation probably keeps them from getting three awesome players and two solid guys.

    Reasonable examples of trades from a few teams that might have interest:

    Boston Trade

    Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias, Anthony Rizzo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard

    New York Trade

    Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Cito Culver, Brett Gardner, Joba Chamberlain

    Tampa Trade

    Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, Nick Barnese, Reid Brignac, Matt Gorgen

    Seattle Trade

    Nick Franklin, Michael Saunders, Josh Lueke, Doug Fister, Brandon League

    Anyways, that’s a realistic look at what Towers will see in return for trading Justin Upton. Regardless of what everyone will tell you, the return won’t be much better than this. I don’t see any team bankrupting their farm system or even grossly overpaying for a guy who is yet to “arrive” at his full potential. Dave Cameron is a very knowledgable guy, but he has two weaknesses in his analysis, the first being that a run saved is the same as a run earned (not always true) and the second being hypothetical trade value (seems to always overshoot the real return).

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    • dnc says:

      “Nick Franklin, Michael Saunders, Josh Lueke, Doug Fister, Brandon League”

      I don’t believe for a second that would get the job done, but I’d do it in a heartbeat. Considering the M’s seem destined to give Lueke away anyway, the only guy on that list I’d miss is Franklin (since Upton would make Saunders superfluous anyway).

      Outside of dealing Felix, I can’t imagine there’s any scenario where the M’s can snag Upton without including at least one of Ackley, Pineda and Smoak. The real debate is whether it would take two of them or not.

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      • Kurt says:

        Look man, Nick Franklin is an A- prospect, Saunders is 1/2 a season removed from being a B+ prospect, Lueke is B/B- prospect, Fister who also has 5 years of control left was worth 2.9 WAR to Upton’s 3.1 WAR in 2010, and League is a closer for two more years at roughly $2MM for 2011 and $4MM for 2012. That’s a damn fine return for a guy who was worth less than Franklin Gutierrez over the last two years.

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      • Kurt says:

        If the Mariners were to trade Felix Hernandez to get Justin Upton, the trade would be…

        Felix Hernandez


        Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Daniel Hudson, and Chris Young

        Seriously, that’s what it would cost. Especially since Felix is under contract for 4 more years at $68MM, his value on the open market would be $200MM/8yrs., which means he comes with a savings of $32MM and there is value in not having the risk of the extra 4 years.

        The other big part of this is that the D-backs don’t have much in their farm that would be interesting, so their best trade chips are players with minimal control and escalating salaries Drew (2 years of arb. = $15MM-$20MM total), Upton (5 years of $49.5MM), Young (3 years of $22MM), and the only low priced guy is Hudson who has 6 years of control. so even bringing up Felix doesn’t make sense in this discussion.

        Before anyone jumps my sh*t, realize that Young was worth 3.9 WAR over his whole career before 2010, Hudson has had 1/3 of a good season and was never thought of as more than a #3 starter, while Drew was worth 5 WAR total in the 4 years before 2010, and only Upton shows true signs of being a future star (which still isn’t guaranteed).

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      • dw says:

        No, I believe it. I mean, consider Theo Epstein in 2009 sent the Mariners their top 10 list of prospects and told the M’s they’d trade any five of them for Felix, just name your five. The Mariners said no.

        Sounds like the Mariners are trying to wrap a deal for Upton around Pineda now.

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    • joe says:

      So the Yankees would trade Gardner for Upton and kick in 4 other guys? Granted Gardner is likely headed for some regression, but it’s debatable how large of an upgrade that would even be…is that upgrade worth the other 4 folks on the list? (Gardner might not have the same upside, but keep in mind in ~2 seasons of game he has posted a higher total WAR than Upton has in ~3 seasons worth of games)

      Similarly I think there’s no way Boston would even consider that deal (even if a little shine may have come off Kelly this year). They would be upgrading from Ellsbury to Upton at a cost of Kelly, Bard, Iglesias and Rizzo?

      Even the Tampa trade looks pretty questionable – while Desmond Jennings has no track record you are essentially upgrading Jennings for Upton at a cost of Gorgn, Brignac, Barnese and Moore?

      While it is nice to put a dollar value on everything and just sum up enough pieces to get there, I think the key for any team trading for Upton is: How much of an upgrade is it over the existing solution? (especially if the solution is also a cost controlled piece as it is in many of the trades you list above)

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      • Kurt says:

        Okay Gardner was worth more because he posted an unsustainably high WAR based on a UZR of 21.9. He has a meh arm that got 12 outfield assists, which explains the crazy UZR he posted. I don’t know if players may have forgot that Damon wasn’t in LF anymore and took chances they wouldn’t otherwise take if they remembered there wasn’t a little girl throwing the ball in from the outfield.

        Also you have to consider that people don’t run on Ichiro the way they did before they knew he threw laser beams. When guys throw people out, they get more respect and the “arm” part of the UZR dips the following season. What further exasperates the problem is that Gardner has an okay arm, but nothing special, so his “arm” totals next year would go down anyways, but expect him to bottom out to around a 5.0 UZR, which takes him under 4 WAR.

        Now as for the offense… Say what you will, but his BABIP was too high and that regression alone will take him down .5 WAR, then subtract the effect of hitting in the Yankees lineup and he’s really a 2.5-3.0 WAR player, truly. You can say that the lineup doesn’t matter, but counting stats effect the WAR total and you are going to score more times, see better pitches, and get more chances to steal when hitting in front of Jeter, A-Rod, and Teixeira than you are hitting in front of Reynolds, Young, and LaRoche.

        Oh and after next year, Gardner goes to arb. which if he were to be worth just 3 WAR, probably makes his arb. years worth about $15-20MM. So it’s not like he’s free. Plus everything about Gardner says that he’s unlikely to maintain that level of production. Chamberlain is a setup guy because the Yankees submarined his value and took him out of the rotation. Brackman is a year removed from TJ surgery, which makes him an injury risk. Montero’s production looks great on paper, but he’s a man without a position and who has negative value defensively and positionally if he’s not behind the plate (which he won’t be). The other guy Culver is a future utility player with a chance to be a starter in a lesser division.

        I can do this for the other trades too, but you get the point. Brett Gardner is an awesome 4th outfielder and a decent regular, but he’s not a Justin Upton, nowhere near.

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      • joe says:

        “the effect of the Yankee lineup”…. interesting…. I guess everyone on the team should have 1WAR lopped off. Brett Gardner’s BABIP was .340, for a player with his speed that is not a huge outlier and I don’t get the expected major correction you are suggesting (Bill James projects him at ~.330 next year). Exactly how far are you regressing that BABIP to knock off 0.5WAR because that (like the ‘lineup effect”) seems completely plucked out of the air. He’s also a GB ball hitter which leads to higher BABIP’s.

        My point wasn’t that he was as good as Upton… just is Upton that much of an upgrade over him and the other OF’rs?

        It’s also not like Upton is “free” either. My point here is it’s not like Upton would be replacing people heading toward FA years and large paydays (so there’s not a huge salary benefit upside)

        Gardner won’t sustain 5 WAR (I mentioned that in my post)…. but people are treating Upton like it’s a given that he’s a 5+WAR player… If you think Gardner regresses to ~3 WAR and exhibits none of the forward improvements that people are assuming for Upton is an additional 1 or 2 WAR worth the players you are listing? The same holds for the other OF’rs mentioned…. Is even a 2WAR upgrade worth all of the additional prospects?

        FYI: the word is exacerbate… not exasperate… which has a totally different meaning

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    • DIVISION says:

      Using family genetics as a way of predicting Upton’s future is ludicrous.

      That would be equivalent to me predicting back in 1980 that Cal Ripken would be a middling fringe MLB player like Billy Ripken was.

      You can use genetics to predict health contraindications, such as injury potential, perhaps, but even that’s a reach.

      It’s also counterintuitive to assume that we understand Towers’ motivations without being privy to what he knows as the D-backs GM. Assuming he’s selling high on an underachieving (by your estimation) Justin Upton is baseless.

      As I said before, Towers is overhauling the organization and Upton is his biggest bargaining chip. It really is that simple.

      Not everything is smoke and mirrors and underlying motivation ploy.

      Sometimes you need to sacrifice short-term (middling) success for longterm prosperity.

      Not everyone can be the Yankees.

      As a Phoenix resident, I know first-hand that fans will miss Upton, but people are losing patience with the ownership group and they won’t support a losing team.

      Trading Upton could net the kind of prospect influx the farms system while only losing one position player.

      It’s not hard to fathom, really……..

      Some of you people aren’t as smart as you think you are.

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      • Kurt says:

        It’s not just genetics, smart guy, it’s also family culture. Both of the brothers have been considered to be arrogant, lazy, and undisciplined. Either it’s nature (genetics) or it’s nurture (the way they were raised as children), but one kid failing directly points to the other kids being MORE LIKELY to fail. It’s not a perfect science, but when one kid falls short of his ceiling, it’s more likely that the second kid will fail. When they talk about “makeup” these things are shared between brothers. The same “makeup” issues that BJ suffers from, also apply to his brother Justin.

        Using one example of failed genetic linking does not discredit the study of shared genetics.

        You say Cal and Billy and I respond Phil and Joe (Niekro).

        You say Jose and Ozzie (Canseco) and I respond Bret and Aaron (Boone).

        You say Ken and Craig (Griffey) and I respond Felipe, Matty, Jesus (Alou).

        You say Pedro and Ramon (Martinez) and I respond Sandy and Roberto (Alomar).

        There are always some that succeed and some that fail. But if a player shows a flaw in their “makeup” it usually is shared between all the siblings. Cal Ripken wasn’t that much better than his brother. His brother got very little opportunity to prove himself and Cal’s success is largely predicated on counting stats that came about from longevity as opposed to domination. Some get into the Hall of Fame because they were a once in a lifetime talent, while some get in because they stuck around 20 years and managed to hit .276 for their career. For the record, Cal Ripken hit higher than .282 just three times after the age of 23 and one of those seasons he was only a part-time player. Was he good? Sure. Was he a HOF? Yeah. But was he exceptional offensively or defensively? No. He was a sub .800 OPS hitter and was a sub 100 OPS+ in 7 of his seasons. He was a sub 110 OPS+ in an additioal 4 seasons. So in 1/2 the seasons he played, he was a replacement level bat, essentially. I’d imagine that Billy would have been a .260 hitter with a little less pop, had he not been shuttled to the minors a bunch. The difference between a .260 and .276 hitter is roughly 10 hits. Over the course of 20 years, that’s 200 hits. If Billy could’ve stuck around for 20 years and hit .260, he’d have been Bill Mazeroski or Phil Rizzuto and your whole point gets blown up.

        If you are looking to build the organization, how do you not build around a 23 year old superstar outfielder like Upton? That’s what he’s selling, a superstar outfielder. If he’s not a superstar outfielder, than the package he’s going to get back is 1/2 of what Towers is asking for. That’s like the Mariners shipping off Felix right now in the name of rebuilding. If you are the Mariners and you are truly rebuilding, Felix is the center of that and if Upton is the guy that Towers says he is throughout these negotiations, then Upton is untouchable. Clearly he’s not untouchable, so his value is exagerated.

        Yeah he could trade one player to retool the system or he could draft players in June that want over-slot and build his farm system up equally fast without sacrificing a franchise player, if that’s what Upton really is in the mind of Towers. So why does trading Upton guarantee any type of long term success? He’s still trading today for tomorrow and there is no more certainty in that than staying with Upton and seeing what he does.

        You can overhaul an organization without trading Upton, if he’s really a future 6 WAR corner outfielder, then trade Drew, Young, and Reynolds to get the pieces you need, because they’ll all be gone by the time the team is ready to compete in 2013 or 2014.

        Some of us don’t need to think we’re smart to actually be smart. There are a few of us that skip the whole ego part of intelligence and just apply the gifts we were blessed with and then there are guys like you who try to wax poetic with your tired cliches that you hear on the local talk radio shows.

        Bottomline, if you’re really intelligent you can use logic to judge motivation. I can see what Towers says, see what Towers expects, and that leaves only one possible answer that connects those two points. Logic is a beautiful thing, it allows you to determine the value of what you don’t know, but applying what you do know.

        Towers is asking for 5 players because he says Upton is a future star, he’s young, he’s got a reasonable contract that keeps him affordable over the next 5 years, and he’s the kind of player you can build around.

        If you are a small to mid-market sized ball club and all these things that Towers is advertising were true about Upton, than you would never get a return to justify trading him. If he’s the OF version of Felix, which is pretty much what Towers’ is saying, than there is no return worth trading him. Superstars are 1 in 100 among elite prospects and that means even if he got 2 elite prospects, he’d have a 50 to 1 chance that either of those guys turns into a superstar. Small market teams can’t afford to take that risk unless they truly believe the guy they are sending away won’t ever become that superstar.

        This form of logic is called interpretation or reading between the lines. Clearly Towers doesn’t think Upton is worth the money he’s owed and wants out of his contract before it gets expensive and/or he potentially continues on his path of regression.

        Towers is betting against Upton, that’s why he’s trading him and that has to be factored into whatever return you are giving to acquire Justin from the D-backs. Nobody knows more about Upton than Towers, so if he’s got cold feet about his “future star” than every other team should modify their package of players accordingly.

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      • WilsonC says:

        “Cal Ripken wasn’t that much better than his brother. His brother got very little opportunity to prove himself and Cal’s success is largely predicated on counting stats that came about from longevity as opposed to domination.”

        You do realize that Billy Ripken played about three quarters of his team’s game in the five years from age 23 to 27, right? That’s over 600 games to prove himself as a regular or near-regular, during which he hit .236/.284/.304. He had one pretty good year, and four years around or below replacement level. Billy didn’t fail to perform due to a lack of opportunity, he stopped getting opportunity after failing to perform in ample chances.

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      • DbacksSkins says:


        “He was a sub .800 OPS hitter and was a sub 100 OPS+ in 7 of his seasons. He was a sub 110 OPS+ in an additioal 4 seasons. So in 1/2 the seasons he played, he was a replacement level bat, essentially.”

        I’m not sure you understand what “replacement level” means. A replacement level SS doesn’t bat anywhere CLOSE to an .800 OPS or 100 OPS+.

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    • DbacksSkins says:

      Um… didn’t the Rays already trade Matt Gorgen to the Dbacks for Chad Qualls?

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  26. geo says:

    The thing that troubles me about giving up so very much for Upton is that he has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for long stretches of time. Sure, he’s young, and it could happen. But baseball history is littered with players who oozed Upton-like potential and were never sufficiently durable on a daily basis to be of enough value to justify their investment cost. The reward, should it come, is well worth the risk, but taking that risk kinda scares the heck out of me. And that, Dave, is why I think you overvalue him.

    As for the Royals…they might have the best prospect chops to get it done, but that doesn’t mean they should. I think the Rays have it too, and are in a better position to do it. The Rays have a good team in the majors right now and much of their prospect pipeline is blocked. The Royals don’t have a good team in the majors, have worked hard to build their system, have no blocked prospects (1B is easy to figure out), and really need to go forward with that group intact. The time has not yet come where it’s smart to trade them for major leaguers. As young and promising as Upton is, and as much as he would bring to them, trading multiples of their top prospects to acquire him undermines the system and organization as a whole and what they are trying to do with it.

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    • DIVISION says:

      Baby Geo,

      The Royals have the prospects to make a deal, but what everyday position player do they have that they are willing to include who will also satisfy the D-backs?

      That is the question.

      The Rays have the prospects are more of a fit in terms of everyday players the D-backs would like.

      The D-backs are dealing from a position of strength. There is only one Justin Upton, combined with the cheap contract and potential for growth, it’s really a power-move for whoever can pull it off.

      I can see baby brother Upton joining older B.J. in Tampa more than him roaming LF in K.C……..

      If Upton lands in K.C., St. Louis fans will revolt that they lost out to their baby brother from the AL.

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  27. geo says:

    Oh, and you can imagine that we’d all agree that, were Upton a free agent this winter, he would get at minimum $100 million for five years, but you’d be wrong. Because I emphatically do not agree. I don’t give $20 million + per year to a 112 OPS+ career player who has put up around 2.6 average WAR in approximately three full seasons, no matter how promising. You say that he should bring in a better package than Greinke or Gonzalez; I say based on what? Five years under control, as opposed to two for Greinke and one for Gonzalez? Maybe you can make that argument, but you have no argument for him being more valuable now or more valuable going forward. Greinke and Gonzalez have both easily outdone him for the last three years, and may outdo him in just next year alone…again.

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    • DIVISION says:

      Baby Geo,

      I agree that Greinke’s value is more than Upton’s, but there’s a huge difference between the two.

      With Upton you are paying for future potential based on promise, combined with a cheap contract.

      Greinke is proven, but there is less of a higher ceiling at this point in his career compared to Upton.

      The D-backs would not trade Upton for Greinke………it would take more and you know it.

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  28. Kurt says:

    I also want to reference something I saw about Justin Upton last year. In an interview he said that he’s not a student of baseball, that he just shows up to practices and plays in the games. That is to say, he doesn’t believe/trust sabermetrics and advanced statistical analysis, furthermore he doesn’t even know/understand how the advanced stats work or could benefit him. He says that he is familiar with counting stats and likes looking at the back of his baseball card. However I think it would be beneficial as a player, if I could analyze what I’m doing wrong and use that in designing a gameplan for improvement. I just thought this might be a reason for why he is regressing and it might be a reason he doesn’t get the most out of his potential. Twenty years ago it would’ve been a non-issue, but today, you need whatever advantage you can get and there are enough guys out there looking at advanced statistics to find weaknesses in their games, that he might be getting beat on the mental side of the game, regardless of how much athletic ability he may have running through his body.

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    • Heather says:

      Isn’t it the coach/manager’s job to be exploiting all these sabermetric advantages you say exist, and passing their insights on to the players?

      Serious question. I don’t know how big of a ding it is on Upton that he’s not sitting at a computer 2 hours a day and sabermetrically analyzing the opposing pitcher. Isn’t that the coach’s job?

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      • Kurt says:

        Heather, it’s big. These guys at 22 years old don’t have serious relationships or kids for the most part and baseball is truly their life. If there was ever a time to care about these stats and know how to use them to improve yourself, it’s now.

        He doesn’t care because he thinks he can coast on his plus tools. Partly because he got to the majors by dominating his peer group at each stop, and partly because nobody has ever forced him to be a smart player.

        If he’s ever going to be a future star, he’ll need to take a more active involvement in his development as a player. It’s not even that he doesn’t sit at home to analyze his stats, it’s that he doesn’t see the point, he thinks that statistical analysis offers no real worth.

        He doesn’t know how to take the information and apply it to his game, which means he’s resistent when the coaches try to do it with him as well. Even if he doesn’t do the sabermetric stuff himself, the fact that he can’t even comprehend the data says that he doesn’t even go over it with his coaching staff.

        I’m not sure if the knock is on him or the organization, but these numbers should be a part of basic baseball knowledge for a player in today’s game. They don’t have to be the beginning and end to what he does as a player, but it’s like a student going to class but not knowing or caring how to read their report card. If you don’t know you are failing in a subject, how do you know that you need extra help to improve?

        He basically equated statistical analysis to witchcraft. He tried to be as polite as possible in his interview, but basically was indirectly discrediting sabermetrics as being inconclusive and worthless in determining the value of a player now and in the future. What I took away from the interview was he’s a very gifted athlete that believes in his talents, but that he is not a very intellectual player and that will eventually limit his development.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but his regression this year points to more truth in my analysis than fiction.

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    • Boomer says:

      He was probably 22 when he said this. Not massively surprising given his physical gifts. As he matures, that attitude could change.

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    • WilsonC says:

      Is there any reason to assume it would help?

      It’s important to remember that while sabermetrics is useful in evaluation of a player, it tells us nothing about many of the finer points that a player needs to concern himself with to improve his game. Whatever process a player goes through in order to improve – mechanical adjustment, learning to recognize different pitches quicker, learning how to read a pitcher’s delivery when stealing bases – those are things that the stats pick up the results of, but it’s questionable whether the stats can give a player insight into those things beyond what he can learn from simply working with a coach.

      On the flip side, a knowledge of sabermetrics could harm a player’s development. Since statistical analysis tends to look at results and probabilities rather than mechanical details, there would be a risk of a player knowing where he wants his results to go, but bogging his mind down in the end product rather than focusing on the little adjustments that go into improving his craft.

      In all the comments on Upton, what insights have their been that could help him improve? Dave mentioned that he could stand to improve his contact rate, but Upton’s probably aware of the fact that it’s usually better to hit the ball than to strike out, and a good hitting coach is far more qualified to help a player make the mechanical adjustments or the changes in approach needed to actually improve in this area without sacrificing too much in other areas.

      It’s probably one of those things that it varies from player to player whether it would help or not, but the more important factor is whether a player’s coachable enough to make the adjustments.

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      • Kurt says:

        “Dave mentioned that he could stand to improve his contact rate, but Upton’s probably aware of the fact that it’s usually better to hit the ball than to strike out”, yeah, but we’re talking about HOW to improve that contact rate, not IF you should improve it.

        K% =Someone who knows stats can tell you that anything over 20% is bad, and anything over 25% is really bad, 30% or more is awful. Just knowing that he could realize that he needs to make an adjustment, maybe not over-swinging or taking close pitches with two strikes.

        BABIP = With such a consistently high number it tells you that he’s got a very flat swing that causes lots of line drives and he routinely is hitting pitches up in the strike zone. Knowing this you can look to add more back knee bend and create more leverage in the swing, this alone should take him to a 35+ HR hitter regularly.

        O-Swing% = Tells you that he’s laying off a lot of the pitches out of the zone, which is a good sign for keeping your BB% above 10%.

        Z-Swing% = This tells you he has swung at 7% less of the pitches in the zone, which means he’s taking a lot of borderline pitches or being more selective about what he wants to swing at. This is good because it means he’s looking for his pitch, but it’s also bad because it means that he’s probably getting into bad counts like 0-1 and 0-2 in an attempt to work the count. If he wants to be more selective early, he needs to stop over-swinging with two strikes and needs to protect the plate better with two strikes.

        Swing% = This is okay, you’d ideally like to see him offer at more pitches earlier, at least until he can get his contact rates more under control, but you can live with 41-42%

        O-Contact% = Now this is where he needs to improve significantly because he’s only making contact with 54% of the pitches he swings at which are out of the zone, if he wants to cut the strikeout rate, he needs to get a better idea of what pitches he can chase and more importantly which pitches out of the zone are even hittable.

        Z-Contact% = This isn’t a horrible number, but he could probably make the jump from 83% to 90%, just by shortening his swing with two strikes and protecting more.

        Contact% = Same as Z-Contact, it really comes down to him maturing into a player that doesn’t look for the homerun. He needs to trust his ability to drive the ball with two strikes and not try and hit the three-run homer every time he steps to the plate. We know he has good bat speed and hand-eye coordination, so it really comes down to him trying to hit the ball to right-center or shortening his swing plane with two strikes.

        F-Strike% = This number is about 6% too high, you’d ideally want him to be around 50%, if he’s seeing closer to 56-57% first pitch strikes, than he’s watching the first pitch too much and other teams are routinely putting him in a hole. Knowing your opponent and knowing your own scouting report can help with this. He knows he doesn’t swing at the first pitch very often and you have to assume the scouts see it too. Quick solution, if you’re facing a control pitcher, you go up there in your first at bat and swing at the first pitch if it’s anywhere near the strike zone. If the pitch was unhittable or out of the zone than you do the same thing in your second at bat. Get other teams to start thinking that you will go up there looking to swing at strike one. Once pitchers are starting to feel more shy about throwing you a juicy fastball for pitch one, you can start working the count more. Edgar Martinez was a master of this, you could throw him whatever you wanted for pitch one, but if it was a fastball over the plate, he’d kill it. That’s what the great ones do. That’s what Upton is NOT doing right now.

        These are things you can extrapolate from his statistics and it points to where his improvements need to begin for him to make the jump to superstar. Why should he be waiting for the hitting coach? It’s his job to get better and produce, he certainly can find the time to analyze himself. The hitting coach is there primarily for mechanics and to help understand hitting technique, but that doesn’t mean that Upton shouldn’t be able to research his statistics and help the hitting coach focus their efforts. There are 15-20 different guys that the hitting coach needs to know throughout the year, but Upton only needs to know himself. Think of it like school. The teacher is there to answer your questions and to guide you, but you can’t honestly expect that the teacher can hold the hand of all 20 kids in the class without it effecting the overall results of the classroom. A teacher needs to be descerning and focus his or her efforts on the students who look for help and who need the most amount of improvement. It’s Upton’s job to ask the questions and to look for the help.

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      • WilsonC says:

        I don’t really disagree with the points here, but there are lots of people for whom it’s not an intuitive process to interpret numbers even on a basic level. A single numbers guy on staff could go through those rates with every hitter on the team in a very short period of time to get the information needed, and would have a more intuitive understanding of what the numbers mean than any given player.

        It would take, what, an hour per player for someone who already understands the numbers to type up a brief report with this type of information to give to the coaching staff? And then additional feedback from the scouting staff to give a more complete picture.

        If you rely on the players to analyze their own numbers, you also run into potential problems that wouldn’t be their otherwise. If a player’s starting to take an interest in the numbers, is their a danger of him misusing them, maybe by reading too much into a small sample size? Is there a danger of players being unable to look at their own numbers objectively, and viewing them in a more optimistic light than they should? Is their a danger of someone seeing a high K rate and overreacting, when he has an approach that already point to success? Is there a danger of a player losing confidence because he doesn’t fully understand the numbers he’s trying to analyze? Is there a danger of a player losing focus by looking at too many different numbers and not having an intuitive sense of how to prioritize? It there any advantage for some players to be able to brush off the rather direct criticism of their games from the sabermetric community as “the opinions of nerds who never played baseball”, rather than understanding it better and dwelling on the negative?

        The players certainly have the responsibility to go to the coaches and ask the questions, but is it any better for a player to point at a particular number than for a coach to print off a report on what the team’s analysts found and use that as a guideline for discussing a strategy on how to improve? Is it better for a particular player to try to do this research himself, or to be evaluated by someone else and then given instruction in a manner that fits his personality?

        There’s a possibility that it would help some players, but I don’t know if we have enough information one way or the other to evaluate the worth of something like that. It could very well be that for a lot of players, it’s important to keep it simple and let the management do most of the thinking.

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  29. Omar says:

    I’d say that Beckett and Halladay weren’t rentals, they were traded to teams who were confident that they would sign them to a long term extension. A Greinke/Gonzalez package? The only issue I have with that is that Greinke should net a better package than Gonzalez. How good of a package for Upton? I dunno, he’s not without his scars, namely his K-rates, but he should still be pretty good.

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    • Bill@TPA says:

      They’re still rentals. The extension or new contract is all extra money you have to pay them, whether you trade for them first or not; the right to pay market value for their services later doesn’t really add any value to the trade itself.

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      • Judy says:

        I believe Beckett was 2 years from free agency, like Greinke is now? I don’t know if most people consider that a rental, though. I usually think of a rental as 1 season or less.

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  30. elpikiman says:

    i remember Dave Cameron saying something like
    ” i would probably trade Felix Hernandez for Justin Upton”
    not even funny to think about something like this.
    Felix has 5 years of experience and being one of the best SP under 25 if not the best.
    I think Dave is blowing Justin Upton upside way out of propotion.

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  31. Craig says:

    I think people might be missing his point which is that WE may or may not give Upton $100 million over 5 years, but if he were a free agent this winter, there are likely several teams that would give him that money based on his previous seasons combined with his tools/potential. If JD Drew can get $70 million/5 years after what he did in LA, and considering his injury history, I’m not sure why Upton couldn’t get $100 million as a FA right now. But perhaps the difference in the financial landscape would change that. If Joaquin Benoit can get $16.5 million though…

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  32. Chris says:

    Jeez a lot of people hating on Dave Cameron. John Heyman thinks that it would cost the Redsox Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury for Upton. I think that a lot of people are looking at this trade the wrong way. Like Cameron was saying earlier we really havnt seen a trade like this and his comparison showed stars getting swapped for stars. So the Red Sox are probably going to have to give up a current major league player who is at least pretty good to get him and probably some prospects to. Also the D-Backs probably over value him as well because why would they give up a player that they have under team control for a while and has such great potential and is already pretty good for some prospects with no gurantees. You have to remember the D-backs dont have to make this trade they are in a position of strength so they are going to have to win this trade for it to happen.

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  33. Steve says:

    I read that Heyman scenario – he is saying that Ellsbury and Bard would be part of a package for Upton, but not necessarily the entire package. I think it would take a lot more than Bard and Ellsbury to get a deal done. Ellsbury is only under team control for three years (compared to five for Upton) and is a Boras client, meaning he will almost certainly hit free agency. Adding Bard does not make up the difference between three years of Ellsbury and five of Upton. I would think at least one other top prospect, such as Casey Kelly, would have to be involved for the D-Backs to bite.

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    • joe says:

      Agreed… also Bard’s value is limited as a setup man/closer (in terms of WAR). I would think they’d need at least one other good prospect thrown in.

      But on the flip side…. if you are Boston would you give up Bard and another good prospect for essentially 2 more years of OF control (and whatever value difference there is between Upton and Ellsbury’s production). It’s not like Boston is a small market team where years of control are as critical as other teams.

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  34. M.Twain says:

    There is a player who put up 7.8 WAR in his first two full seasons at age 20 and 21. His OPS+ in those two seasons was 101 and 114. All indications were that he was going to be a star.

    During the next three years, that player put up OPS+ of 91, 97, and 88. He then had an absolutely monster season (at the tail end of the steroid era in his walk year) and then followed that up with an OPS+ of 93.

    What is interesting is that his walk rates those first two years are the best of his career and ~50% better than his career rate. It seems that the league figured him out and he never quite reached the star status that seemed inevitable.

    I think the jury is still out on Justin Upton. He may adjust and become the star that many people think he will become. Or he may become Adrian Beltre, a fine player, but not worth $20MM/year.

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    • James says:

      Yeah Beltre is like the one guy who raked as at a high level as a teenager and didn’t become a superstar. He did become a fine player though, which is probably Upton’s floor.

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  35. twoseamer says:

    For those saying Upton would not get 5/100 I respectfully disagree. Some are overlooking his age and the fact that he has a combination of all the things that each segment of the scouting and analytical community love (acceptable walk rate and power numbers for the brains and 5 tools for the scouts) and his age is somewhat overlooked by the naysayers. It’s entirely possible he can take a step or two forward and be a superstar. So I feel that someone will give him the money. BUT, I would not. The K’s are not going away, the attitude, while not BJesque (new word!!), won’t play well on a veteran team and who knows if that gets better. And while a good athlete Upton has not shown the ability or inclination to beat you with his legs or his defense. Finally, he has a fairly significant injury history for someone so young, and the oblique strains are especially worrisome to me. I wouldn’t give up the farm for him or pay him 5/100 but I would love to have him for 5/50 and would be willing to give up Moustakas and Montgomery as a Royals fan, as each of those guys have some question marks of their own. Won’t happen, but fun to speculate.

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    • DIVISION says:

      That is why you are a Royals fan. Keep dreaming.

      I have it on good suspicion that Towers would hang up the phone if your GM came with that proposal. Matter of fact, I doubt your GM would even try….

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      • twoseamer says:

        Talk trash for now…man I hope I get to talk some in the not too distant future. ’85 is a long time ago, and we do have a Ned/Dayton combo running the major league club so maybe not.

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  36. Jeff Wise says:

    I’m hearing that the Mariners are considering trading Michael Pineda for Upton. I don’t think this would be a great trade for the M’s because they know they need pitching and defense to compete in the AL West and Pineda is a stud. You never know though. The M’s are known for busted trades.

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    • dw says:

      Pineda is as much an injury risk as Upton. And right now the Mariners need hitting if they want to even think about competing. They’re up to their eyeballs in pitching and defense.

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    • NBarnes says:

      The Putz trade worked out well for Seattle. So did both ends of the Cliff Lee Experience. It’d be more accurate to say that Bill Bavasi is an idiot and would probably find a way to !$#@ up trading for Justin Upton. Thankfully, he’s no longer the GM of the Mariners.

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  37. Kurt says:

    Well, if the Mariners include Pineda then it’s because they have some doubts about his durability or long term effectiveness. If they move the trade to someone else, it wouldn’t be the first time talks started at one prospect and ended on another. Saunders was supposed to be gone in the Cliff Lee trade, but instead they included a low level outfield prospect destined for regression.

    Maybe they can say, we’ll give you:

    Pineda, Saunders, Aardsma, Fister, and Halman

    But then after agreeing to this, the Mariners say, tell you what, we’ll give you Robles and Beaven instead of Pineda and include Carp.

    Saunders, Robles, Beaven, Aardsma, Fister, Halman, and Carp would be a decent haul, especially since Robles and Beaven project to be #3 starters and Pineda still only projects to be a #2. Saunders is cost controlled and a very similar player to Upton except he’s left-handed and has less ceiling. Carp and Halman are extra pieces for Seattle, we could be selling high on Aardsma and Fister, but I’d bet money that Beaven, Robles, and Saunders become 2.5+ WAR players each and the rest still has value.

    Many if not all teams are reluctant to give up A-level prospects regardless of the return. So getting 3 B+, 1 B-, 1 C+, and 2 pitchers who can help you going forward would be a respectable haul for a guy that regressed and has a number of hurdles in front of him to becoming that “superstar”. In my opinion he’s no closer to being a superstar than Carlos Gonzalez was entering the 2010 season. Say what you will, but could you see yourself trading Felix Hernandez for Carlos Gonzalez straight-up after 2009? No. What about after 2010? Probably still no because you see the unsustainably high BABIP and remember that he’s doing all this damage in Colorado and despite a below average BB%. If given the choice however, I would take Carlos Gonzalez over Justin Upton. So much for the Upton-Hernandez trade values being equal, at least in my mind.

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  38. bookbook says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say that Carp, Halman, and Fister have astonishingly little trade value. Halman as an extremely high-risk, moderately high-reward guy is worth something, but Carp and Fister don’t feel like something I’d pay to get. Robles, Beaven, and Saunders are league average if all breaks right, and take up three spots on the 40 man as players who will potentially be worth something down the road. They’re worth something, but how much?

    Robles, Beaven, Saunders, and Aardsma for Upton. Would you give up Upton for that? Only if you’re pretty sure he isn’t going to make you look very, very bad in two years.

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    • Kurt says:

      Fister was worth 2.9 WAR and he does two of the three things that make pitchers successful. He throws a ton of strikes and keeps the ball on the ground. If he struck guys out at a rate of 7.0 or higher he’d be an ace or at the minimum a solid #2. He has a ton of value and he doesn’t start making over the minimum until the soonest 2013. As for Carp, he’s only 24 years old and is a very similar player to LaRoche. The biggest difference is that he won’t make a real paycheck until 2014. Halman is Upton with 10% higher strikeout rate, 5% lower walk rate, better speed, better arm, and better overall defense. Halman could be a GG caliber defender within a couple years. Really the only knock on Halman is whether or not he’ll walk enough or be able to reduce his strikeouts significantly. Hypothetically if he backed off on two strikes and went for contact, he’d probably get his K% to 25% and with a little more patience could see his BB% jump to 8% or maybe even 9%. At that point he’s a 3-4 WAR player, at the minimum he’s potentially a 2-3 WAR player because he’s a legitimate 30 HR/30 SB threat each year, even if his contact numbers continue to suffer along with being a plus defender at only 23 years old right now.

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    • Kurt says:

      Another thing Beaven is a harder throwing Fister and probably projects as a 3 WAR pitcher with the potential to be more, he used to throw 97 mph and at only 21 yrs. old, he could still recover a large part of that velocity, he currently sits at 92-93mph. Robles at worst case will be an 8th inning lefty and still has a #2 or #3 ceiling with two out pitches. He throws a 97mph fastball with lots of late movement. Scouting reports on Robles say that he’s got sick stuff and just needs to work on command, he’s also only 22 next year. Saunders is a left-handed version of Upton with a little less ceiling. He projects to be a 25-30 HR guy with a .280/.350/.450 triple-slash. Add that to him being one of the best leftfielders defensively in baseball, he has value, especially over the course of a full season. He was only 23 this year and still hasn’t had stable playing time. Remember that he’s a lefty who took Lester deep this year. It was around halfway through the year and it was the first HR that Lester gave up to a lefty all season. So Lester is known to be tough on lefties and he turned him around and I believe he also just missed another and had to settle for a 2B in the same game. Saunders is a helluva player and shouldbe a 3 WAR guy easy. It actually makes me sick to my stomach to think about trading him. I’ve spend half of the last two days trying to rationalize trading Ichiro and moving Saunders to RF. I keep telling myself we’re rebuilding, Ichiro is old, we could add prospects when we deal him, but I want him to retire a Mariner. I know it’s irrational, but it still crossed my mind more than a few times. I think it says something about Saunders that I would even begin to justify dealing an easy 4 WAR player, even if there’s salary flexibility at the end of the tunnel. Technically in two years, Ichiro probably makes $10MM a year until he retires and that represents a large discount as well. Just because we’re not front page news, doesn’t mean our players are crap.

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  39. Victor says:

    Justin Upton seems like he would benefit from a change of scenery, if only to get away from the Arizona hitting instructors/philosophy. If you take a look at that roster, it is littered with talented hitters who swing for the fences and have never reached their full potential.

    His subpar performance last year raises some questions, but most likely this strikeout and injury-plaqued campaign, where he was still an above average hitter, is his floor.

    IMO, having a generational talent like him for his age 23-28 seasons is probably worth the risk of trading your 2 best prospects and a couple major league regulars.

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  40. joey p says:

    looking at the packages some have proposed for Upton here tells me that PT Barnum was right, There is a sucker born every minute (actually it was said by David Hannum, but is accredited to Barnum)

    Any GM who gives up anything close should be fired. Bard Ellsbury Kelly, insane. Soria plus, never. Grady Sizemore is twice the player and can be had for less than is being proposed for Upton, He is a bust waiting to happen at these prices. A good player yes but certainly not great. Cameron talking out his Posterior as usual. maybe he has an unreasonable affection for players named Justin…..? Hows Smoak working out for you Dave?

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    • Kurt says:

      You’re a douche. It was the guys first season in the majors and he was rushed. Go check what Alex Rodriguez did through his first 250 ABs, he sucked, like sub .640ish OPS suck. Smoak also took off at the end of last year and I would easily pin him for 25+ HR, 90 RBI with a triple-slash of .270/.360/.500 in 2011. By 2012, he’ll be a 40+ 2B & 30+ HR slugger posting a .900 OPS annually.

      Sizemore is not twice the player of Upton, he’s better, but marginally and he’s played very few games over the last two years. Technically Sizemore will probably have to DH 1/2 the time until his knee is truly 95% or better. Additionally, he’s controlled for 3 less years and he’s coming off a season where he displayed almost zero power. Comparatively, Sizemore represents an equally large risk. He could be another version of Eric Chavez, and you could be trading for the right to pickup his $15MM or so in salary, while netting zero return. Maybe he costs less prospects, but you also could be getting a helluva lot less baseball from him than you should be getting from Upton.

      Please try and control your hyperbolic statements, they make me dizzy and want to throw up.

      “looking at the packages some have proposed for Upton here tells me that PT Barnum was right, There is a sucker born every minute (actually it was said by David Hannum, but is accredited to Barnum)”

      When people accredit the wrong person and then correct their accrediting to show a deeper knowledge of the topic, instead of properly just stating who really said it the first time, it shows they feel what they have to say lacks substance and value. They were in most cases ignored and talked down to as a child, or they simply are looking for acceptance from a peer group that they respect and sometimes even idolize.

      Simply put you discredit your opinion when you look for acceptance in stupid quotes that do not help to further the discussion and more importantly, if you need the approval of the readers on this site, than you are already categorizing your input as failing to be beneficial or insightful. If you don’t feel your comment has value than we clearly won’t as well.

      Kelly sucked this year, Bard is a 1.0-1.5 WAR bullpen arm, and Ellsbury is an unfinished product with a 3 WAR ceiling, who with his speed might have a career year that sneaks into the 4 WAR range. however he’s reaching the end of his prime years, he has a jackass for an agent, and he’s into his arb. years. Additionally, when his speed declines over the next three to four years, his defense (which only plays in LF realistically at this point) will drop to substandard and his one offensive ability that he can be categorized as elite (base stealing) will no longer be more than marginally productive. All things told, Ellsbury is going to be an expensive 2 WAR player within 3 years, IF he can stay healthy. He’s worth less than Saunders because at least Saunders doesn’t have his injury history and still has 2 or 3 control years before he goes to arb.

      It would benefit you to make strong arguments than:

      “x, y, z is insane” (insanity is talking like a 4th OF, a marginally successful pitcher who is still all projection and very little production, along with a bullpen arm is worth more than one of the better young players in the game)

      “Soria + x, y, z, never” (he’s making market value and is still a 2 WAR player at best)

      “Grady Sizemore is twice the player” based off him being worth something like 6-7 WAR less over the last two years? Seriously, you want to go THERE?!

      “Posterior” is not capitalized. (it’s not a pronoun)

      “maybe he has an unreasonable affection for players named Justin…..? Hows Smoak working out for you Dave?” (Yeah because you’re a genius for realizing that they both have the name Justin, why don’t you make it all first names ending in “ustin” so you can throw Ackley under the bus too? Maybe you just have an irrational hatred for all guys named Justin because some guy with that named stole your girlfriend, beat you up in 5th grade, or maybe you best friend was named Justin and you found him stickin’ your mom. Seriously, you aren’t clever with your commenting, I can do the same thing with little to no effort.

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    • Kurt says:

      By the way, how old are you? You have to be a little kid, because what man still let’s their friends call them “Joey”, what are you a kangaroo? How about Joe or Joseph? If you want to talk with the big boys, it’d be good to at least introduce yourself with an adult version of your name. Just saying, “Joey.”

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      • Craig says:

        Kurt, it amazes me that you could talk Halman up so much when there is a ton of risk involved in a prospect like that, and then immediately dismiss someone like Casey Kelly saying “he sucked this year.” He was 20, in AA, and in his first full year of pitching. I don’t know what kool-aid you’re drinking on the Seattle prospects but you definitely need to stop saying “he’s a _____ version of Upton.” There are not many players in the mold of a Justin Upton. I understand that Halman is an athletic freak, but almost everybody is concerned about his risk for failure as a prospect. Goldstein didn’t even have him in the top 11 prospects for Seattles system, and you’re comparing him somewhat favorably to Upton. And other people’s hyperbole makes YOU sick? That’s irony. Neither Halman nor Saunders are anywhere close to the caliber of player that Upton is, either current or projected.

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  41. joey p says:

    kurt you dont like it when people disagree with you hmmmm, then you should probably try being right more often then, I used the hannum quote which is usually miscredited as barnum’s own and properly so as to avoid confusion, so stop talking out your posterior.

    second Smoak is not as good as you seem to think. that 4 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio in seattle was really good there wasnt it,and yes Smoak was better later in the year when he was in AAA, Too bad the Mariners had to give up a pitcher like Lee to pad their minor league stats That .218 career average will certainly make them forget cliff now wont it.

    and you keep believing what your lover says about uptons value because no one in their right mind would give up what you and your sodomy impaired partner thinks he’s worth, because frankly hes not done anything to prove he’s a 20M a year player yet

    Anyway Kurt go relax your Aryan brotherhood should be visiting soon to help you and davey boy convince people of your superiority or else right?

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    • Kurt says:

      If anything I’d say he’s a $12MM a year player as a free agent. Remember that Beltre was just 25 when he reached free agency and he came off a season twice as good as Upton’s best year and he played a more valuable position. So all this talk about Upton being worth $20MM/yr. IS bullsh*t because he’s only two years younger than Beltre was when he reached free agency and Beltre got only $12.8MM x 5, and that was when they were handing out stupid contracts. For the definition of stupid contracts, just look at whatever the Yankees are giving out for marginal all-stars and aging veterans. I do however think that he’s worth a couple good prospects and a couple high ceiling long shots, mixed in with some young MLB talent.

      Aryan brotherhood? Really?? Are you on drugs? I am married to a Peruvian woman and have two Peruvian children, with a third on the way, oh and I live in South America. But hey, let’s keep throwing around racism even when it doesn’t apply, especially when you can use it to misdirect the negative attention you get from being a raging assh*le. I always thought it was pathetic how people slander and libel for the sake of their own egos. Just in case there was any confusion, it’s not funny when you throw around racist taunts, it just makes you look like an insensitive jerk who perpetuates the b.s.

      Psychology 101 says that your labeling of me as a racist would be your own way of attacking yourself for the inner turmoil you feel about your own racist thoughts and opinions. For now on, let’s at least try to keep the insults relevant. If you want to call me egotistical, arrogant, misinformed, than be my guess, all are probably accurate to varying degrees. But I am most definitely not a racist or a bigot. I’m just sorry that you can’t take in, what you so readily give out. I guess you aren’t equiped with the emotional requirements necessary for dealing with a personal attack, even if you feel it’s your right to inflict your own trivial utterances and insults at others, for your own simple minded pleasure.

      By the way, homosexual taunts are equally childish and really you should get more educated if you can offer nothing better in terms of verbal insults than to talk about color of skin and sexual preference. One more thing…

      Sodomy impaired = Unable to have anal sex

      ^———– How is that an insult? Are you saying that my wife doesn’t like anal sex or that I’m with a non-gay homosexual? I’m not sure what you are trying to imply but really the only thing you are implying with your less than coherent insults is your own stupidity, which believe me, you don’t have to imply again, we get it, messaged received, over and out, you’re an idiot, got it! Once is informative, twice is being thorough, but doing it more than two times like we haven’t already figured it out is just downright offensive. Don’t you think we understand that you’re stupid without you having to prove it over and over again?

      Oh and in the future be sure that you know what someone thinks before you tell them. It would probably be beneficial for you to know if someone is a racist or a bigot before you start wielding your insults at them.

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  42. Micah says:


    I would like to see these new studies you point to about siblings. There is actually a significant amount of variation between both genetics and environment for siblings. Some factors show moderate correllatioms, but others do not. It is not a blanket statement as you suggest that one bro is more likely to be like another bro across the board just because they are siblings, there are simply too many other variables.

    That said, as a Braves fan, I don’t think I want Upton at the high prices discussed. It depends on team need vs. costs, and I think the Braves now need ++ defense In CF more than anything at this point.

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  43. WilsonC says:

    I almost wonder if the Upton rumors are more of a ruse than anything. While I’m sure that Towers would trade Upton if he gets a ridiculous offer, he can also get a better feel for how other organizations rate their own young players and prospects internally through discussions of what they’re willing to offer for Upton. Is he really “on the block” or is it more a way to gather information from a whole bunch of organizations at once?

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see some moves involving lower profile players once the Upton rumors die down.

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  44. DIVISION says:

    Towers already said he’ll only deal Upton for a huge overpay by a desperate team. He’s quoted on that.

    Unless he gets that, he won’t deal Upton.

    That is why there are only about five or six teams in MLB who have the necessary prospects and players it would take.

    I think Toronto’s haul is the best option, but it’s going to take a combination of Snider, another high end prospect, starting pitcher and probably one or two fringe prospects to really get it done.

    Will Toronto do it?


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  46. bandung says:

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