Justin Upton Rumors

Mets Notes: Upton, Bourn, Murphy, Tejada

Despite the optimistic financial future that principal owner Fred Wilpon recently outlined to reporters, the Mets might not have as much flexibility as anticipated. The team projects to make $22MM this coming season, once debt payments for Citi Field, diminishing attendance and TV revenues are factored in, Josh Kosman of the New York Post reports. Kosman hears that there's "little room this year to raise salaries." Here are some more Mets-related notes as Spring Training continues…

  • There was a time last month that GM Sandy Alderson expected the Mets would add Justin Upton or Michael Bourn, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. The Mets discussed the possibility of trading Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada plus younger pitching prospects to Arizona for Upton, who was ultimately dealt to Atlanta. It's not clear how close the Mets were to acquiring Upton, but some say Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers "indicated strong interest" at a certain point. 
  • MLB also gave the Mets "favorable signals" that they'd be able to sign Bourn without surrendering the 11th overall draft pick, Harper reports. 
  • Alderson said the organization's top pitching prospects will make an impact at the MLB level, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports. "It’s a marker of future success,’’ Alderson said. Manager Terry Collins added that he envisions some of the prospects becoming power arms for his bullpen.

Quick Hits: Jason Kubel, Giants, Indians

On this day in baseball history in 1987, Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly won his arbitration hearing against the team to secure a contract of $1.975MM. The figure represents the highest in Major League history, eclipsing the previous record set by Jack Morris merely four days prior. Let's catch up on the latest news and happenings around the league on the Sunday without a baseball game until November.

  • Jason Kubel dealt with trade rumors all offseason that had the slugger being dealt to another squad thanks to a crowded Diamondbacks outfield, writes Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. Luckily for Kubel, Justin Upton was traded to the Braves and the veteran no longer needed to worry about where he would be playing in 2013.
  • Angel Pagan's new found fame as a World Series champion led to young men in his home country of Puerto Rico wanting to work out with him, and so he did, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. "They ask me, my personal trainer. I tell them to come over, do the same thing I do. (The trainer) doesn’t charge them. I want them to understand what it takes to get ready, to be a champion. It’s about your work ethic, how you prepare to be successful."
  • The Indians can point to a series of key moves this offseason as the reason for optimism heading into 2013, says Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. "We realized at the end of last year we needed to make adjustments," said general manager Chris Antonetti. "We were not good enough. We needed to improve."

Quick Hits: Crane, Upton Brothers, Sandoval

The Marlins will be paying Ozzie Guillen $2.5MM this season not to manage the team, according to D.J. Short of NBCSports.com (via Twitter). The financial figure is higher than all but the salaries of two players on the squad. Here's the latest news and stories making headlines from around the Major Leagues.

  • Astros owner Jim Crane spoke in front of his ever-evolving ballclub on Saturday to share his vision for the future for the franchise and his plans on how to get there, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "Certainly our fingerprints are all over this now and all the changes we made are our changes," Crane said. "Bo [Porter] told them this and I told them this: Neither one of us have lost in anything we've done, and we're not going to start now. We're expecting to turn this into a winner, starting today."
  • Justin Upton and B.J. Upton are already over the initial joyous feelings that come with playing side-by-side with one's brother at the Major League level and focused on spoiling Davey Johnson's swan song, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. While the Nationals may have a more complete roster on paper than the Braves, each one of the Braves' starting outfielders, including Jason Heyward, poses a legitimate threat to compete for NL MVP.
  • Pablo Sandoval's inability to keep his weight at an optimal level continues to be an ongoing issue for the hefty third baseman, says Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The veteran met with Giants manager Bruce Bochy in a closed-door meeting to discuss how being in baseball shape (Sandoval played winter ball) is not the same as playing at a healthy weight. "Like all the guys, we’ve got to get ourselves in game condition," Bochy said. "Even though he’s been playing games, it’s fair to say he has to shed a few pounds, and he will. He has the time. He’s up there working as we speak."


Rangers Notes: Andrus, Upton, D’Backs

After speaking with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio checked in with Rangers GM Jon Daniels.  We've got the goods courtesy of Bowden on Twitter..

  • The Rangers "would love" to extend Elvis Andrus' contract, but the club needs Andrus to want the same thing (Twitter link).  Andrus has expressed interest in staying in Texas but so far that hasn't manifested itself in a new deal.  Having three strong options for two positions is a "good problem" in Daniels' view and he doesn't sound like he's feeling pressure to remedy it with a move.  
  • Daniels told the duo (audio link) that the Rangers were in on Justin Upton until the trade-that-never-was with the Mariners.  If Texas made a deal for Upton, it would have been a prospect heavy package but Daniels believes that D'Backs GM Kevin Towers wanted big league ready players as well.  The Rangers wanted Upton but were unwilling to surrender one of their shortstops to make it happen.
  • The GM was asked about the possibility of looking into either Michael Bourn or Kyle Lohse.  Without addressing either player in particular, Daniels said that he doesn't expect to make any significant moves between now and the start of camp (Twitter link).

Yankees Notes: Upton, Hairston, Bench, Rodriguez

Yesterday, the Yankees avoided arbitration with David Robertson on a one-year, $3.1MM deal, meaning that they have now come to terms with all five of their arb eligible players.  All things considered, it has been an unusually quiet offseason for the Bombers as they look to tighten their belt for 2014.  Were they close to making other moves along the way?  Here's more on that and other news on the Yankees..
  • Cashman told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Newman, that he had conversations with the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton but Arizona was never focusing on making a deal with them.  That fits in line with a report from ESPN.com's Buster Olney earlier this month that indicated that several teams were anxious to get in on the talks but were struggling to get a response from GM Kevin Towers & Co.
  • Cashman also said that he's aware that he needs to strengthen the bench and find a right-handed bat for the outfield.  However, he doesn't feel as though it all has to come together by Opening Day and suggested that he could explore mid-season deals to make that happen.
  • Meanwhile, the GM says the Yankees were never close to signing Scott Hairston either, despite being linked to him for a good portion of the winter, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post.  Cashman added that the club isn't opposed to multi-year deals but did say that they'll have to be careful about it.  Hairston agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs earlier this week.
  • General Manager Brian Cashman told ESPN 98.7's Michael Kay there is a chance that Alex Rodriguez will miss the entire season after undergoing hip surgery, writes Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.  "It is a very complicated surgery. Any time someone has a surgery, there is always a chance there are complications. That didn't take place in this case. But is it possible? Sure, it is possible, but is it likely? I don't think so," Cashman said.  If Rodriguez does have to retire at some point due to his hip issue, the Yankees are insured for most of his contract.

NL East Notes: Upton, Rizzo, Nationals, Marlins

The Braves' acquisition of Justin Upton is the story of the day from the NL East, and the Mets also made news by agreeing to sign Shaun Marcum.  Here are some other notes from around the division…

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said he spoke to Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers about Upton but didn't make any progress towards a trade, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. "We just didn't really see a fit," Amaro said. "We communicated a few times with K.T.  Clearly, what he was looking for and what we were willing to give were a little different."
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed some of the building blocks behind his team's rise to success with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, including investing in the draft and having the flexibility to sign veterans to short-term contracts.  Rizzo anticipates that the Nats won't have any problems affording some of their key young players as they become more expensive.
  • Rizzo also told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Ladson) that the Nationals were open to multiyear contracts with Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, as was reported earlier this week.  Rizzo left the door open to potentially acquire another starting pitcher but said that he's happy with his rotation as it currently stands.
  • The Marlins have made a minor league contract offer to Pat White, the former Miami Dolphins quarterback told Orlando Alzugaray of 640 Sports (passed on by Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel).  White was originally picked in the fourth round of the 2004 amateur draft by the Angels and, after his NFL career ended, he signed a minor league deal with the Royals in 2010.

Diamondbacks Notes: Upton, Kubel, Mets, Payroll

The blockbuster trade of Justin Upton is dominating headlines around baseball today.  We've already looked at one batch of reaction to the deal as well as Arizona's hopes of quickly signing Martin Prado to an extension, but here are some more news items out of the desert…

  • The Diamondbacks are "a team stressing culture over talent," writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, dealing Upton and Trevor Bauer because neither player fit the club's preference for "the dirt-on-the-uniform, all-out, get-concussed-or-go-home sort of player."
  • The D'Backs will keep Jason Kubel, GM Kevin Towers told reporters during a conference call, including USA Today's Bob Nightengale (Twitter link).  This comes as no surprise, as it was expected that Arizona would only move one of Kubel or Upton from a crowded outfield that also includes Gerardo Parra, Adam Eaton, Cody Ross and A.J. Pollock in the mix.  Kubel had drawn interest from a number of teams, including the Padres, Orioles, White Sox, Mariners and Mets.
  • Speaking of the Mets, they talked to the D'Backs about Upton at various points this winter but the two teams never got far, Metsblog's Matthew Cerrone reports.  The Mets didn't have the Major League-ready young infielder that Arizona wanted, nor were the Mets willing to trade Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey.
  • The Diamondbacks' payroll in 2013 "will start with a nine," according to managing general partner Ken Kendrick, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (via Twitter).  This would represent a significant bump from the Snakes' 2012 payroll, which Cot's Baseball Contracts lists as a little more than $75.4MM.

AL East Notes: Cherington, Upton, Kubel, Rays

Pedro Martinez is returning to the Red Sox as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, the club announced today.  The future Hall-of-Famer told reporters (including MLB.com's Ian Browne) that he will be helping instruct the organization's pitchers during Spring Training and throughout the season.  "I hope to be a friend to most of those kids that probably have some questions or if they have uncertainties about what they're going to be facing," Martinez said. "What kind of things they should be aware of? I think I'm very well prepared and armed to actually help them with it."

Here are some more items from around the AL East…

  • In an interview on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show (partial transcript here), Cherington said the Red Sox addressed a number of weaknesses over the winter and he thinks the Red Sox can contend.  "Maybe we didn’t make the one headline move or haven’t to this point…but I do think we’ve added strength to a lot of different areas to the roster, a lot of areas we had holes in," Cherington said.  He also defended Boston's ownership against recent criticisms from ex-manager Terry Francona.
  • The Orioles had interest in Justin Upton but weren't prepared to move top prospects like Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy in return, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.
  • Connolly also outlined the talks between the Orioles and Diamondbacks about Jason Kubel, saying that the O's never had more than "lukewarm" interest in Kubel's services.  The Orioles felt they were Arizona's "backup plan" to trade an outfielder as the Snakes' preference was to swap Upton.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told Hillsborough County Commission officials that "Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area," reports Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times.  Sternberg reiterated his belief that a new stadium is needed to make his franchise viable and said he is committed to keeping the team in the Tampa area.  MLB released a statement today expressing disappointment in the Rays' attendance, saying, "The status quo is simply not sustainable."
  • Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos discussed the team's winter moves, plans for the upcoming season and more in an online chat with Toronto Sun readers.  Included is a nice compliment for MLB Trade Rumors, as Anthopoulos says he reads our website, "All the time, and I'd venture to say that almost every front office person in baseball does the same. Great site and great way to stay connected with what's happening."
  • The Yankees are running out of options if they want to add right-handed hitting outfield depth, opines Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog.

The Justin Upton Trade: Reaction & Analysis

Justin Upton's future has been the source of great speculation all winter, and now that the Diamondbacks have moved the outfielder to Atlanta as the centerpiece of a seven-player deal, the move has already generated a lot of buzz from around the baseball world.  Here are some reactions to the deal, some background, and how the Braves and D'Backs will be affected…

  • Upton's "quiet intensity" may have been the key reason behind Arizona's eagerness to trade him, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes.  “The problem is that [Upton] didn’t play with a high level of energy,” a former Upton teammate told Rosenthal. “What I think they want is guys who play with the speed, energy and intensity of the Oregon football team — all out, all the time.  Justin doesn’t have that kind of attitude….He plays hard, but has to look suave doing it. Slamming into walls isn’t his thing, and they will accept nothing short of all-out sacrifice for the team.”
  • D'Backs GM Kevin Towers told reporters (including Yahoo's Jeff Passan and MLB.com's Steve Gilbert) that it's "accurate" that he and manager Kirk Gibson want a grinding-style of team since "that's the way Gibby played the game."  Gibson, however, said that while he is "100 percent on board" with the move, he also lobbied to keep Upton. 
  • Had the Braves not been able to acquire Upton, they would have looked to re-sign Michael Bourn, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link).
  • Also from Nightengale, he hears from a rival scouting director that the addition of Nick Ahmed gives the D'Backs three of the top 15 shortstop prospects in the game. (Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings are the other two players.)
  • Larry Reynolds, Upton's agent, talked to Towers following the season about a potential deal, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports.  “We never demanded a trade, but there were discussions between Kevin Towers and myself about the possibility of trading Justin between the end of the season and the trade,” Reynolds said. “I have a good relationship with K.T., so those discussions were amicable.”
  • Both teams did well in the trade, opines Fangraphs' Dave Cameron.
  • MLB.com's Matthew Leach and ESPN's Keith Law both think the deal is a win for the Braves.  Leach praises the Braves for getting Upton without losing any hard-to-replace prospects, while Law criticizes the D'Backs for just getting "about 50 cents on the dollar" in return.  In reference to the Trevor Bauer trade, Law writes that "for the second time this offseason, they've [Arizona] made such a deal and taken less than full value in return for a player the whole industry knew the team wanted to move."
  • Seven team executives and scouts tell ESPN's Jayson Stark that there are some concerns about the Upton brothers' perceived attitude problems and how the Braves have lost an important clubhouse leader in Martin Prado.  That said, six of the seven thought the deal was a great move for Atlanta since it gives them a potential superstar outfield between the Uptons and Jason Heyward.  "If somebody had said three years ago that you could have those three guys in the same outfield, people would have been going nuts, right?" a scout said.
  • Rival executives feel that the D'Backs "squandered a lot of value this winter" but look to be a good team in 2013, ESPN's Buster Olney reports.  Prado is "a perfect fit" for Arizona both on and off the field (Twitter links).
  • Upton and Braves GM Frank Wren discussed the trade in a conference call with reporters, including MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith.

Frank Wren, Justin Upton Discuss Trade

Soon after the Braves signed B.J. Upton, the center fielder told team executives how much he’d enjoy playing with his brother Justin. B.J. might not have known as much at the time, but general manager Frank Wren was already a step ahead of him. Intrigued by the possibility of having both Upton brothers in their outfield, the Braves had begun discussing potential trades with the Diamondbacks in November. It ultimately took months of on-and-off trade talks for the seven-player deal to become a reality.

“It all fell in place for us where we had all of the ingredients to make it happen, and we’re very fortunate that it worked out,” Wren said on a conference call with reporters today.

Wren said the Braves front office is excited to add Upton, “a young, dynamic player that arguably gives us one of the best outfields in the game.” The 25-year-old will add right-handed power to the middle of the Braves’ batting order and patrol the outfield along with Jason Heyward and his older brother. 

"It was a a dream of ours to play together,” Upton told reporters. “I didn't think it would happen this early.”

The pair last played together in high school, but they’ve continued exchanging tips and observations over the years as they’ve established themselves in the big leagues. Upton stressed that he’s looking to become a consistently strong player, suggesting that playing alongside his brother could lead to improved results on the field.

“I think we can really feed off of each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to a consistent production rate,” he explained.

Wren said he didn’t begin the offseason with the particular intention of adding both B.J. and Justin. The Braves had strong interest in both players, and now that they’re in place there’s an expectation that the brothers will indeed feed off of one another.

“I do think it’ll drive them,” Wren said. “I think it’ll push them. So I think there are a lot of positives to go around.”

The Braves and Diamondbacks discussed potential trades involving Upton in November and December, generating little traction at first. The teams considered many versions of the deal, going back and forth often leading up to the holidays. The rumors persisted — “there was a lot of chatter whether it was on Trade Rumors, or Twitter,” Wren noted — but discussions didn’t pick up until the last week or so, and the Braves didn’t think they had a good shot at completing the deal until this weekend.

Upton’s name has surfaced in trade rumors since the 2010-11 offseason, when Kevin Towers became Arizona’s GM. Trades and rumors are part of the business, as agent Larry Reynolds knows. That said, there’s a certain amount of relief now that a deal has been completed.

“When reality hits you get a little excited because it’s over first of all for Justin,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds, who represents both Uptons, went on to describe the brothers as competitive with “outstanding baseball acumen.” The Braves were far from the only team interested in Upton, which meant they had to part with some pieces they would have preferred to keep. While the Braves didn’t want to trade Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks pushed for his inclusion in the deal. Wren noted that Prado’s pending arbitration case wasn’t a factor in the move, and acknowledged that years of control figure in to any trade talks. Still, giving up Prado was difficult, even though he’s just a year away from free agency.

“I don’t think there’s any question that was the most difficult part of it,” Wren said. “We’re sad to see him go.”

Wren was quick to note that teams don’t obtain difference makers without giving up “something really good.” And as the Braves set out to retool their team for the post-Chipper Jones era, they wanted impact players. With both Upton brothers in place, the Braves have completed the bulk of their offseason work and will be viewed by many as a contender.

“Where we sit today in January we like our club a lot,” Wren said. “Now we’ve got to go perform.”