Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Justin Upton: Does He Fit For The Mets?

The Diamondbacks have grown tired of Justin Upton’s attitude and his behavior, so much so that they have now resolved to potentially trade him for some package of either high ranking prospects or “major league ready” talent. The Pirates have been linked to both Upton and Carlos Quentin. The Pirates are certainly a viable destination for either player, but they may not be a solid participant in the Upton sweepstakes, they just don’t have the pieces that Arizona is looking for. Of course they could always try to overwhelm the D-Backs with a large pack of prospects, but there are other teams who could use a right handed outfielder with power and “speed” (8 caught stealing in 18 attempts isn’t exactly going to impress me). 

One of our local sports talk personalities Bruce Jacobs, who is openly a Mets fan proposed the idea of trading a package consisting of Lucas Duda, one of Kirk Nieuwenhuis (good lord was that hard to spell) or Jordany Valdespin, and a mid tier prospect largely of the D-back’s choosing. I don’t think this is an overwhelmingly poor offer on Jacobs’ part. I think that it would be giving up too much for the return, especially if Nieuwenhuis were involved. A great deal of Jacobs’ argument centered around the notion that the Mets need a righty power hitter, and thus their glut of lefty bats could be used to their advantage. Now, much more than looking for offense, the Mets need bullpen help, but regardless of a “needs vs. wants” argument I think that this would be an overpay, potentially a necessary one if they are dead set on prying Upton away from the D-backs and there are other serious suitors, but at the moment it appears like that should be the absolute high water mark for an offer. Perhaps more fitting would be Valdespin and 2 prospects allowing the Mets to flip Ike Davis for a reliever and move Duda to first. Slight decrease in power overall, without sacrificing two batters who are 20-30 homer threats under team control for quite a while.

I feel like Upton’s value is being played up too greatly, he has speed on some level, but either his speed is diminishing already at 24 years old, or he’s not making smart baserunning decisions. He has 20-25 home run power, not 30. His high water mark is 31 homers last season in a modestly hitter friendly home park, moving to Citi field would suck a lot of that power away in a hurry, closer fences or not. I understand a 20-20 hitter is a valuable commodity, but he’s also being touted as an excellent defender, which depending on the metrics you put stock in could be seen as an absolute fabrication or complete truth. Upton’s trade value is probably higher than someone like Nick Swisher’s, but defensively he is (again metric dependent) only marginally better than Swish in right and doesn’t present the same kind of threat at the plate that Swish does. Arguably, he may continue to get stronger over the next few years, possibly becoming a 30 hr threat, but giving up two average outfielders with 15 + homer power or one with power and one with what appears to be very good baserunning acumen on top of a prospect just seems like too much of an overpay after looking things over, especially in light of the Mets actual needs in the bullpen.

As an aside, whoever acquires Justin at the deadline should investigate what BJ will cost in free agency after the season. Having the Upton brothers on the same team would (potentially) elevate them both. They have both been criticized for taking plays off in the field, for making bonehead mistakes on the basepaths, but what of an outfield with both BJ Upton in center and Justin in right? With that much speed you may be able to put David Ortiz in left and still have league average outfield defense.

Overall, could the Mets pull off the trade? Sure. Would it help enough to bother? Probably not this year.

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