In recent weeks the rumors that the Pirates are engaged in trade talks for Justin Upton have been rampant. The interest has been persistent and intense, but recently it has come out that Neal Huntington is not willing to include Cole, Taillon, or Marte in a deal for Upton. Add in the fact that the Diamondbacks are looking for a 3B, SS, and a pitcher in the deal (as the Pirates don’t have a 3B or SS prospect to give up) and the mountain gets taller. The Diamondbacks also want major league players or near-major league players, too, as they still fancy themselves in the playoff hunt.
None of those 3 pieces of information point in a positive direction for the Pirates. There is a team out there that could accomodate the Diamondbacks’ wish list while also being able to fit Upton into their lineup — the Texas Rangers.
Tim looked at Upton’s potential trade surplus value a week ago and came up with $48.7M. That was assuming a 5 WAR/season estimate, which I think is a touch too high, but let’s use it for now. The Rangers have the current #1 prospect in all of baseball in SS Jurickson Profar. The 19-year-old phenom is currently at Double A with a .296/.374/.493 (867 OPS) triple slash line. As a hitting prospect ranked 1-10, he has a trade surplus value of $42.2M. So theoretically, especially if you discount Upton’s presumed yearly value to 4.5 WAR/season, Profar for Upton straight up would be a fair trade.
However, there is no way that a 1-for-1 trade for Justin Upton will happen. The Diamondbacks, for both their own purposes and PR purposes, will be asking for a package. The Rangers also have a very good 3B prospect in Mike Olt. The 23-year-old is also at Double A and has a .292/.403/.577 (980 OPS) line with 23 home runs. On Baseball America’s recent Midseason Top 50, Olt was ranked #11. His trade surplus value in that tier as a hitter is $33.36M.
The Rangers also have a good young pitcher that is a high riser in profile in recent years named Cody Buckel. The 20-year-old was recently promoted to Double A. For the year he has pitched 103 innings, given up 70 hits, walked 37, and struck out 113 batters. He was recently ranked #41 by Baseball America, and as such has a trade surplus value of $14.7M.
Adding up all three of these players gives a potential trade surplus of $90.26M, which would be seen as a huge overpay. But perhaps if the Rangers offered a choice of two packages the Diamondbacks would go for it:
1. Profar and a good-not-great pitcher like Neil Ramirez
2. Olt, Buckel, and a decent SS prospect like Luis Sardinas
Profar and Olt would only require tune-ups in AAA in 2013, perhaps even to delay the potential for Super 2 qualification, so the Diamondbacks’ packages would be headlined by near-ready prospects that could contribute in 2013. As I’ve mentioned in the National League Deadline preview series, this just does not appear to be the Diamondbacks year so they should get ready for 2013.
For the Rangers, Upton would provide a good hedge against the impending free agency of Josh Hamilton. If Hamilton were to get a big money offer from the Dodgers, for example (the thought of Hamilton living in LA with his addiction problems is frightening), the Rangers would be much more comfortable allowing him to leave. Both Hamilton and Nelson Cruz (free agent after 2013) are prone to injury, so bringing in Upton will help minimize that risk.
Whether or not this actually happens is another matter entirely, but it seems like the best team to meet the Diamondbacks’ demands and absorb the contract of Upton would be the Texas Rangers.