The Straw That Stirs, Dept.

- "If I played in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me," Reggie said during his A's tenure, believing Baby Ruth and Oh Henry! to be named after baseball stars.  He was 33% right.

- "I'm the straw that stirs the drink," Reggie charmingly opined after he became a Yankee.  "Thurman thinks he's the straw, but he can only stir it wrong."  If you're thinking that Justin Upton is a character of Reggie's magnitude, or that such egos preclude winning, we recommend a good history book.


Q.  Does the mainframe grok Jack Zduriencik as serious about Justin Upton?

A.  It does, yes.  As one of half-a-dozen lines he's probably got in the water for the next three weeks.


Q.  What is SSI's basis for believing this?

A.  Well, back in the 2010-11 offseason, Upton's agent made it a point to publicly clarify that the Seattle Mariners were not on his no-trade list.  Not as in "We haven't ruled out any West Coast teams."  Rather, as in "Justin does not have the Seattle Mariners on his no-trade list."

In agent-speak that's like saying "Please trade us to the Mariners, somebody."  It isn't done.


Zduriencik is a Stars & Scrubs man.  He offered the Padres six players for Adrian Gonzalez.  He offered Prince Fielder some $180M.  He traded for Cliff Lee.  He and Pat Gillick have been seen in the same room together:  they ain't the same man.


Jason on Prospect Insider twitters that the M's are in "more than preliminary" talks over deals including Upton's, though you can safely disregard the flat statement that Taijuan Walker is the only player who could key the deal.  You'll remember what they were saying before Zduriencik traded three class-A players for Cliff Lee.

Jason lays out a solid case-against the deal.  Dr. D's judgment, you'll be shocked to learn, runs in a different direction.


Upton is out of favor in Arizona, including with the D-Backs' ultimate shot-callers, their ownership.  It's even a bit of a buy-low scenario, as opposed to what Upton would have cost coming off his sensational 2011 season.  

You'll hear people say "if he were hitting .320 with 20 homers I'd want him, but that's not the case."  It's not just bloggers who are given pause by an injured thumb and a wash-out 2012 season.  "Sexy" hot players command more in the trade market; it's why the M's were able to choose between Montero and Smoak for two months of Cliff Lee.  Lee was hot.


Exec Sum:  the M's could very likely score an Upton deal this month, if Zduriencik doesn't have something else he likes better.  


Q.  Should the M's be interested?

A.  If they are confident that 1H 2012 is a hiccup -- and that would be a reasonable position to take -- then they've probably got a buy-low opportunity on a player who could swiftly hit the afterburners and jell as a Hall of Fame right fielder.

Buying at 80-90 cents on last winter's dollar doesn't mean that they can trade Brendan Ryan for him, of course.  They've got to be verrrrry confident about his career arc.

No guts no glory.  Or, look before you leap.  Or, he who hesitates is lost.  Or, once bitten twice shy.  You make the call.


Taro's picture

BUY on Upton. One of the most talented players in the game. Still raw, and is a premium player despite it.
Even injured (shoulder in '10 and hand in '12) he still can still hit a bit with great D. In heathly seasons hes a superstar.
And its easy to forget that Upton is still 24 years old. He hasn't even hit his prime yet. You'd be buying Upton's age 24-28 seasons. The absolute prime of his career. He has Fielder/Hamilton-esque power, hits well to the opposite field, and has the D you need in the OF.


Given that the Mariners' offense currently looks acceptable and OF isn't a particularly gaping hole, and that the starting rotation has been absolutely horrendous behind Felix, dealing away the most prized pitching prospect is a big gamble. Yeah, that's what they pay Jack Z for... but man, I'd love it if we could get through this season with Walker still in the program.

M's Watcher's picture

I like our big three pitching prospects as much as the next guy, but any or all of them could bust or flame out. Upton is a solid MLB MOTO hitter. If one of them is what it takes, make the deal.

ghost's picture

Talented, but like his brother a complete head case with ZERO baseball intelligence...not to mention a right handed hitter with only MEDIUM power to the pull side and a towering high fly ball machine, NOT a topspin/line drive hitter. He'll hit .255 with 22 homers and no walks in Seattle. PASS.


It seems clear that the Mariners do not have many chances at the ++ power they need. The options are 1. play flawed AAA powerhouses like Carlos Peguero, 2. OR Be spurned by free agent hitters and then left powerless. 3. OR Taking power players involuntarily through trades.
Taijuan is great, and stuff, but we haven't even been watching him. He probably won't hit the scene until 2014. I might not be a Mariners fan by then. I thought they'd want Felix for Upton. He's just the power bat to throw in left next to Saunders and Wells. Then, we'd have a high powered outfield with awesome D to back up Vargas and Co.


'I might not be a Mariners fan by then' :- ) that's a meta-game analysis for you!
Yeah, you could argue that Felix is the appropriate trade counterpart.  The funny thing is, I have a pretty good suspicion that the deal wouldn't necessarily include Hultzen or Taijuan.
Sickels has Nick Franklin as the #16 prospect in baseball, midseason.  Paxton's 50-something; Brad Miller is already top-100 and Carter Capps is near the top 100.  
It is US AS BLOGGERS that are hypnotized by the Big Three.  
GM's are more agile in their thinking, generally speaking.  Brad Miller could feasibly key a deal, or you could cough up Nick Franklin and regard Miller as a just-add-water 98-100% replacement.

B3Rocker's picture

All those future hall-of-famers that Gillick absolutely would not include in any deal: Joel Pineiro, Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley. I see only one that had a "serviceable" career. Hopefully our Big Three will do better than those pitchers.

Taro's picture

I actually think Hultzen+Walker are a little overhyped at this point. They started strong, but are showing flaws. Hultzen was drafted for his command and can't find the strikezone. Walker has knockout stuff, but is struggling a bit in AA. As you've preached in the past, pitchers don't develop linearly like hitters (normally) do, so at present both pitchers need to jump plateaus. Its anybody's guess whether they do or not.
Most of the teams in baseball are going to be in competittion for the Upton. 3.5 years of his prime and a shot at resigning him. He already has two 5 WAR seasons under his belt at age 24. Even a deal with one of Hultzen or Walker highlighting it will probably be a little light without strong secondaries.

Taro's picture

Medium power, cmon. That Justin has been so good without intelligence is a testement to his raw talent. A lot of hitters blow up at around 26. Hes still 24.
BJ is actually a pretty good player despite getting bashed all the time. He can play CF with an above-average bat. Probably won't age well in his 30s, but has run several 4 WAR years. Hes doesn't have Justin's swing though. Justin was a more talented player from the start.

ghost's picture

Unless you demonstrate at some point in your career that you can hit 35-40 can't do that. Doc is describing Upton as having absolutely mammoth power, and I will admit his swing is pretty. But where are the homers if he has mammoth power - especially in THAT ballpark.

ghost's picture

...I'm not attacking you...I am just concerned with the tendency among fans to get too excited about a guy because he's different than the guys we have. I am trying to figure out how Upton's power is all that different than, say, Mike Cameron's power. Was Cameron easily conquering Safeco? Not according to the most common Ms' fan's narrative.
But Cammy had an ISO of around Upton really THAT much better with his ISO of...around .200? Contextually adjusting, you have competing factors...Chase vs. Shea/Safeco etc, mostly pitcher's parks, and you have the steroid era vs. the return to normalcy era. They cancel, roughly. Which means those ISOs should be roughly comparable.
They are both 30/30 threats and both supposedly good on defense, though Cameron was a gold glove slam dunk CF and Upton is an occasionally solid corner outfielder with worse fielding metrics than his scouting toolbox. Would you give up two marquee prospects + fillers for Mike Cameron just as he's about to hit his prime? I most certainly would not.

Taro's picture

Upton's HRs average around 420 ft and are hit hard. Its not possible to hit them harder than that. Even his doubles are smashed.
I'm not going to diss Cammy. He was a great underrated player, and yes I'd pay that price for a prime-Cammy (but thats a different argument).
Still, Cammy was having his rookie season at an age when Upton already had 98 career HRs. Cammy never had a wRC+ (adjusted for park) above 126 in his entire career. Upton has already had two seasons above 130 and he hasn't even hit his prime yet. And as much I appreciated him here, Cammy never had that kind of a swing or upside with the bat.

ghost's picture

...I think that (a) Cameron was a great player...very underrated...(b) I think that Upton is a better player than Cameron, overall, but (c) just because someone can hit the ball a long way doesn't mean they have projectable, usable power. Upton has a nice looking swing but mediocre at best plate discipline and strike zone judgment. I just don't see him going on to hit 40 homers for the Mariners. The real statistics we get from him will, IMHO, be Cameron + 30 points of BA. Which is a whale of a player (remember...I said he'd hit .255 in Safeco...Cammy hit like .220 in his final years in home games)...but I don't think that FOR US...he turns into a superstar. The park is uniquely suited to crushing his upside projections down to levels not that far exceeding Cameron's. FOR US.
For someone else...the limit is much MUCH higher and his chances of mega-stardom greater.

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