Few could’ve predicted that Justin Upton’s market would play out so slowly, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick in a lengthy examination of Upton’s journey to the open market. Crasnick notes that Upton is somewhat a victim of borderline unreachable expectations, noting that some view him as a disappointment for being a considerably above-average outfielder as opposed to the generational talent that some hoped for when scouts began raving about him at age 14 and when some outlets compared him to Ken Griffey Jr. as a prospect. Crasnick spoke to executives and Upton’s former skipper, Fredi Gonzalez, with many heaping praise on the 28-year-old — Gonzalez in particular. “He’s been one of my favorite players that I’ve managed in my career,” said Gonzalez. “He shows up at the ballpark every day ready to play. He’s respectful. He knows the game. He’s a great teammate and clubhouse guy. … I’m very surprised that he’s still out there. I think there are a lot of teams missing the boat on him. I really do.” Crasnick also spoke to execs about Upton’s defense, examined his perceived attitude problems as a prospect and also spoke to some in the industry about the potential difficulty of watching his brother struggle alongside him with the Braves and the Padres.
A few more notes on the free-agent market…
- While many (myself included) have speculated that Chris Davis is holding up the market, to an extent, for the remaining corner bats, ESPN’s Jayson Stark believes that Yoenis Cespedes is holding up the market more than Davis at this point (Twitter link). Some of the slow-moving market for top bats is unrelated to either player, he adds. From my vantage point, with the Orioles focused on Davis but standing as a logical landing spot for either Upton or Cespedes, the argument could be made that Davis is slowing things down. Jeff Todd and I recently discussed as much on the MLBTR Podcast.
- Jon Heyman tweets that as the starting pitching market continues to narrow, the Royals, Nationals, Astros and Rockies are the most likely landing spots for right-hander Ian Kennedy. However, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding feels differently, tweeting that if the Rockies make a rotation upgrade, it’s going to come via trade rather than a high-priced free agent like Kennedy. The Royals’ spacious park and elite outfield defense would seem, to me, to be an ideal fit for a fly-ball pitcher like Kennedy, while those same fly-ball tendencies and Kennedy’s previous home run troubles make him a poor fit at Coors Field.
- In his daily Insider-only column (subscription required), ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that there’s a belief around the industry that the White Sox are open to outfield upgrades but don’t want to spend at the levels necessary to land Upton or Cespedes. A second-tier option makes more sense, Olney notes, and while he stops short of speculating on specific names, I’ll add that players such as Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson could be fits for the South Siders. (Gerardo Parra, too, would’ve made sense but agreed to a three-year pact with the Rockies earlier today.)
- While many Cardinals fans would like to see the Redbirds enter the market for Cespedes, Upton or another high-profile outfield bat, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch that such a scenario isn’t likely. “I know that some people disagree and want us to do something else, but Matt Adams, having [Brandon] Moss, giving [Randal] Grichuk an opportunity to be the everyday center fielder feels right to us,” said Mozeliak. “If we go out and add an outfielder, where are they going to play? Who is not playing? How does that affect us? What does the short-term view look like compared to the long-term commitment? And honestly, we feel very comfortable with what we have.” Langosch writes that St. Louis has been watching the Upton, Cespedes, Fowler and Davis markets from the periphery but would only jump in if the price got to the point where the club felt the opportunity to add value was too good to pass up. Moss, according to Langosch, will get the chance to cement himself as primary option at first base.