Justin Upton Trade Rumors Fly

Five-tool outfielder Justin Upton was considered "untouchable" by the previous Diamondbacks regime, but that is no longer the case. General manager Kevin Towers is listening to offers on the former first overall draft pick, who strikes out more than Towers would like.

Justin Upton and shortstop Stephen Drew were among the players drawing interest at the recently concluded general managers meetings in Orlando, FL, and new GM Kevin Towers made it clear he will keep an open mind, even if a trade is unlikely.

"I'm not shopping those guys. My approach is, I'm willing to listen on anyone. Those two are great players. It would have to be a hell of a baseball deal to move either one of those guys," said Towers, hired September 22. "We're in the information-gathering business, so when you get in a situation (to consider a trade), you have an idea of the value of your players. If a deal doesn't make sense now, maybe it makes sense next year. If anybody is 'untouchable,' you are not gathering enough information."

Upton, 23, hit .273 with 17 home runs, 69 RBI, 18 stolen bases, and 152 strikeouts in 133 games last season, missing most of the final month after aggravating a left shoulder injury. He has been playing with a partial tear in the labrum, but surgery is not considered an option at this stage.

While Upton will make a modest $4.25 million in 2011 and $6.75 million in 2012, he will earn a combined $38.5 million in 2013-15, and the D-backs might be inclined to use some of that money to address other needs. Towers has said obtaining a closer and other bullpen arms is a priority.  The D-backs also need a fifth starter and have an opening in left field.

Any trade involving Upton would require a package of three or four major-leaguers and/or big-league-ready players in return, industry sources believe. At the same time, a deal would offer Towers a chance to create his own template for the D-backs, who have finished last in the NL West the last two seasons.

Towers also has made it clear he wants to reduce strikeouts after the D-backs set a major league record with 1,523 in 2010. Adam LaRoche, who will not return to Arizona in 2011, was fourth in the majors with a career-high 172 strikeouts in 2010. Upton was 12th and  Mark Reynolds (211) was first for the third straight year.


--1B Juan Miranda was acquired from the Yankees for minor league RHP Scott Allen, a move that will give the D-backs another option at first base for 2011. Miranda, who signed after emigrating from Cuba in 2006, hit .253 with four homers and 14 RBI in 83 major league at-bats over the last three seasons. He was out of options and blocked in New York by 1B Mark Teixeira. 1B/LF Brandon Allen is the only first baseman on the roster after the D-backs declined a $7.5 million option on 1B Adam LaRoche.

--INF Geoff Blum signed a two-year, $2.7 million contract with Arizona after hitting the free agent market when Houston declined his $1.65 million option for 2011. Blum, 36, has played every infield position in his 12-year career that included 2 1/2 seasons in San Diego (2005-07), when new Arizona GM Kevin Towers was the general manager there. A switch-hitter and .251 career hitter, Blum batted .267 in 218 at-bats in a utility role in 2010, when he missed time because of elbow and knee injuries. In 2009, he hit .247 with 10 homers and 49 RBI in 427 at-bats after winning Houston's regular third base job.

--Rico Brogna resigned as the D-backs' director of player development on November 15, four weeks after accepting the position. Brogna, a former major-leaguer, was promoted after Jerry Dipoto was retained in the newly created position of vice president of scouting and player development. Brogna, who had spent four seasons as a major league scout for the D-backs and led Class AA Mobile to the Southern League playoffs in his one season as manager there, has left the organization.

--Mike Bell, the D-backs' minor league field coordinator last season, took over as the director of player development after Brogna resigned. Bell, grandson of Gus Bell and son of Buddy Bell, served as the D-backs' minor league field coordinator last season after managing Class A Visalia from 2007-09. "(Bell) brings the unique experiences gathered during a lifelong exposure to the game as a member of one of baseball's most respected families," Dipoto stated.

DIAMOND STAT: 2 -- Players to hit game-deciding or game-winning home runs in their only at-bats of that particular World Series, Geoff Blum (2005 White Sox) and Kirk Gibson (1988 Dodgers).

QUOTABLE: "If somebody wants to overpay, I'll be more than willing to listen. It's just a thing where people are kicking the tires right now. That's it.'" -- GM Kevin Towers, on Justin Upton trade discussions.

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