All-star outfielder Justin Upton has been one of the hottest names on the trade market this Winter, just as he was last Winter and last Summer as well. The Arizona Diamondbacks have dangled their right fielder so often it’s almost comical.
Upton’s name was kicked around at the GM Meetings last month and he’s a hot topic again this week at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. Jon Heyman reports early Tuesday morning that the Seattle Mariners met with members of the D-backs’ front office to discuss a possible trade fro Upton. Heyman speculates that a pair of prospects, shortstop Nick Franklin and right hander Taijuan Walker may be attractive to Arizona GM Kevin Towers, who has been said to be seeking a shortstop as part of the return package for Upton.
Walker, the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, was dominant in his first two stops in professional ball, but struggled a bit when pushed to Double-A last season. Of course, at just 19-years-old, Walker was extremely young for the league, often facing hitters five and six years his senior. Despite his youth, he still managed to strikeout more than eight batters per nine innings and his walk rate didn’t rise at all versus where it was in the lower minors, which is an excellent sign. Walker was rated the 20th best prospect in the league by Baseball America entering the 2012 season.
Another former first-round pick, the 21-year-old Franklin was rated the 53rd best prospect by Baseball America in 2012. He’s hit as many as 23 home runs in a season, coming in A-ball in 2010 and has reached Triple-A this past season. He could probably benefit from another season in the bush leagues, but his bat has performed exceptionally well in the minor leagues for the Mariners.
Still just 25 and under contract through 2015, Upton is a rare young star with cost certainty on the trade market. That, along with his immense upside talent-wise, makes him a player who can command a king’s ransom in return. Which is exactly what Towers has been seeking.
The Rangers and Braves are known to have interest in Upton as well and both teams have good young shortstops that Towers covets. According to reports thus far, however, the Rangers have indicated that they will part with neither Elvis Andrus nor Jurickson Profar and Atlanta would rather move Tyler Pastornicky than Andrelton Simmons. Unless those stances change, it’s unlikely that Upton will be on the move to either ball club.
Heyman’s package was purely speculative, but if the Mariners were willing to part with those pieces, it would likely be the best package offered to Towers and may well be enough to land JJustin Upton.