Justin Upton and the Cost of Doing Business

The apparent trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks that was nixed by Justin Upton exercising his no-trade rights reportedly would've cost Seattle a lot in terms of young talent. SeattleClubhouse takes a look at why that cost shouldn't be looked down on as a drastic overpay or compared unfavorably to Mariners deals of the past.

It was widely reported on Thursday night (first by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi) that the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks had agreed in principle to a trade in which Justin Upton would have become property of the M's. The cost was said to be big league relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor, minor league infielder Nick Franklin and "maybe" one of 'The Big Three' pitching prospects for Seattle -- Taijuan Walker, James Paxton or Danny Hultzen, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports and Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. Jon Heyman later posted that Walker was that piece, and while there is no reason to dispute these reports, SeattleClubhouse doesn't have any confirmation of our own to back that up.

When the rumors of the package hit Twitter, Mariners fans started to erupt, some with hope of a deal still being consummated, but many with sheer outrage that General Manager Jack Zduriencik would consider such a package. Some pointed to the much maligned former GM of the Mariners Bill Bavasi and his infamous dealings, namely the Erik Bedard trade. Why would the Mariners consider doing this again? Hadn't the organization learned their lesson in watching former prospect Adam Jones turn into a Gold Glove, middle of the order hitter for the Baltimore Orioles? It just defies logic that they would go down the same road and deal their top prospects, some said.

What seemingly no one is grasping is that, like it or not, that is the cost of doing business.

Clearly as our primary focus here at SeattleClubhouse is on the minor leagues and on the Seattle Mariners' young prospects we understand the value and the promise that lies in the organization. But as a fan, do you want your team to keep clinging to the hopes of tomorrow's prospects who may or may not develop, or would you rather they get a proven commodity now? As I pointed out on Twitter last night, Upton -- a 2-time NL All-Star already -- turned 25 last August, during a season in which he had a down year, posting "only" a 107 OPS+. That puts him as younger than players such as Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak and Carlos Peguero -- all guys who the Mariners and at least a portion of their fans still have hopes of further development on. He is roughly 2 months older than Kyle Seager, who was arguably the clubs best hitter in 2012, during a "breakout" season which saw him post an OPS+ of 110.

See the points I am trying to make here?

Upton may not be a .300/.400/.500, 30+ HR, 110+ RBI guy, but he is a young, proven MLB producer from the middle of the order. Flat out, Upton is younger and better than almost every other in-house option that the Mariners have at their disposal. He broke into the major leagues as a teenager back in 2007 and has posted a 117 OPS+ in over 3,000 MLB plate appearances since. The comprehensive list of players in the last decade who have produced better than a 107 OPS+ for the Seattle Mariners for better than 2,500 PAs looks like this: Raul Ibanez (122, during his 2nd tenure with Seattle) and Ichiro Suzuki (108). That's it.

This acquisition -- which we are very likely talking about after any likelihood of it coming to fruition have passed, especially hearing the added information from MLB Network's Harold Reynolds (a former Mariner), the brother of Upton's agent, that Upton would "never accept a trade to Seattle" -- would have addressed the M's most glaring weakness by adding a young, right-handed power hitter with (at least) three years of club control left. Would the reported cost have been tough to swallow? Absolutely. But the reality of the matter is that Seattle doesn't have the luxury of just amending the trade to only include low-level prospects. They are not only trying to satisfy (in this instance) Arizona's demands, but also working to make their offer be better than all other suitors for Upton's services. You have to give up talent to get talent. Period. It is the cost of doing business.

You can't reasonably complain that the club doesn't make any effort to improve while also whining when they take a real and definite step in that direction by being willing to surrender prospects. They either pay with dollars via free agency -- which has proven to be very difficult, as the Josh Hamilton situation proved -- or they pay with prospects. There is no third path of magic for immediate moves to improve the club. You can't have it all.

As with the Bedard-Jones trade (not a great comparison, but what we have), the trade cost would likely look like a lot less in a few years. Has Jones developed nicely? Yes. Is Tillman still promising? Yes. But as was once again uncovered by Baseball Prospectus a few months back (SUB -- sneak peek: Reds considered Joey Votto and Homer Bailey for Bedard?), many GMs would have been willing to do a swap with players of Jones' and Tillman's pedigree at that time. And seeing now what the other three pieces (George Sherrill, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler) became, it is clear that losing them didn't boost Baltimore or hinder Seattle much. It is probably that at least one of the four players Seattle would have sent to Arizona would never reach their potential.

When considering the difficulty that Seattle has had in getting free agents -- particularly free agent hitters -- to sign on the dotted line in their history, paying for a bat in the trade market seems to be their best, and maybe only bet, to add a bat the caliber of Justin Upton. I fully expect the Mariners to continue to explore the trade market and inquire on big bats such as Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gonzalez, and if they can reach a deal for such a player, the reported cost for Upton could become a reality.

It is a reality that the Mariners apparently have already come to grips with, and it is a reality that the fans need to understand as well.

Looking for more Mariners prospect scouting reports, rankings, interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.


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