As you probably know, I’m a John Buck fan. By “fan,” I mean I really would have liked for the Royals to keep him over Miguel Olivo last winter and avoided signing Jason Kendall. Buck is an adequate backstop with power. There’s some value in that. Yesterday, we learned exactly how much value as he signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Florida Marlins.
Just when you think you have baseball economics figured out, someone comes along and just blasts the conventional wisdom right out of the water. As much as I like Buck, I always thought him to play out the rest of his career as kind of a journeyman… A series of single year deals that would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 or $3 million per. But a multi-year commitment that will net him $6 million a year? Wow.
And now we can say we knew him when. Unfortunately, he’s now in South Florida. Baseball’s Siberia.
The Buck news (and subsequent insane Dan Uggla deal) pushed the potential big rumor of the day to the back pages of the internet. (I know… mixed metaphor alert.) Allegedly, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a bit of buyers remorse on Justin Upton and are listening to offers for their outfielder. Upton hit .273/.356/.422 in 571 plate appearances – numbers down from his stellar 2009 campaign where he hit .300/.366/.532 in roughly the same number of plate appearances.
Whomever deals for Upton (assuming the Diamondbacks are serious and actually pull the trigger) will be getting a 23 year old outfielder who is signed through 2015 and is owed roughly $49 million. And is likely a bargain.
This presents an interesting question if you’re Royals general manager Dayton Moore. Upton is an A List talent locked in to what should be a very favorable contract, so as such, he will demand an A List return. The Royals have the players at their disposal to make the deal. We know how their minor league system is stocked to the gills with young, promising talent.
So the question is, do the Royals partially disassemble their minor league system by dealing a couple of their top prospects in exchange for a young outfielder who has proven he can hit in the major leagues? Do you ship potential in exchange for a player who has proven he can perform at the major league level?
What would it take? Two top ten prospects? An arm and a bat? If that’s the case, I think I pull the trigger. Sure the trade could backfire for a number of reasons (injury by Upton, both prospects become All-Stars, etc.) but in the cases where you can deal potential for proven ability – especially when the player with proven ability is only 23 – you kind of have to do it.
However, if Dayton Moore doesn’t want to ship off a pair of his prized prospects, there’s an alternative…
How about shipping Zack Greinke to Arizona along with another mid-level prospect in exchange for Upton?
Think about that one for a moment… (Although I can hear the chorus of “Hell, yeahs!” all the way from my mom’s basement.)
Greinke has publicly called into question his desire to remain in Kansas City for another youth movement. He has a limited no-trade clause that we know blocks deals to large market teams, presumably because he doesn’t want to pitch under the microscope that comes with playing for a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies. The Royals are in a payroll conscious frame of mind and swapping a $12 million salary for the $11 million Upton is due over the next two seasons seems like something that would appeal to the Royal bean counters.
Of course, I haven’t touched on the big reason to make the trade… Upton could become the best power hitting corner outfielder for the Royals since… Danny Tartabull? Wow.
For Arizona this deal makes some sense as well. Everyone needs starting pitching, but the Diamondbacks have more than a few openings. Greinke is signed for the next two years and in the topsy-turvy NL West, all it takes is some stability to be in the race. Greinke wouldn’t automatically make them a contender, but he would certainly move them closer. Besides, think about him taking a few turns in San Francisco and San Diego a couple of times a year. (Even at home… Those are traditionally a pair of weak-hitting teams.) Greinke could move to Arizona and pull a Lincecum and win back to back Cy Young awards.
If I’m Dayton Moore, I’m kicking the tires on Upton and thinking of sending Greinke on his way to the desert. If Arizona is amenable, I’d make this trade in a heartbeat.
If they do make a deal like this, it would seem to accelerate the timetable, wouldn’t it? Even though Upton would be here until 2015, the Royals would need to move their prospects along to where a majority of them would have to make their debuts in 2012. (Regardless, this is likely to happen – I’m thinking an Upton deal would really push their hand.) You figure the young nucleus of hitters and especially the pitchers will need a couple years of major league seasoning before the Royals can seriously consider themselves contenders. That means a playoff push could happen in 2014, which means we would have two years of in-his-prime Upton to complement the young, developing, championship players.
You will hear no argument from me.