MMO Crossfire: The Case For and Against Trading For Justin Upton
In the first edition of a new feature here on Metsmerized, Jessep and XtreemIcon argue their cases for and against Justin Upton who is once again on the trading block for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and this time it sounds like they mean it. The talented young outfielder is only 24, but there’s a compelling case to be made on both sides of the debate, and the choice is not as easy as it may seem. Consider both sides and let us know whether you believe the Mets should be hot on the trail of this up and coming talent.
I’m All For Adding Justin Upton
Trading for Justin Upton is certainly not a no-brainer, nor is it very likely the D-Backs would trade him while still only four games out of first place. That said, if the Mets have a serious offer to make, they should be very vocal in their interest. Upton is one of the most talented, well-rounded players and solves several of the issues the Mets need to address to become serious contenders.
Upton provides outstanding outfield defense and power from the right side. Keep in mind, however, Arizona is an extreme hitter’s park and there would be a significant drop-off in his home run potential in a move to Queens. It’s not out of the question to hope for 25 home runs, but expect 22. Upton has speed, but doesn’t know how to use it. He’s a terrible base stealer, with only a 68% success rate for his career. At 24, he’s young enough to expect that improve with his maturity as a ballplayer.
Upton is owed the remainder of his $6.75 million salary for this year and $38.5 million through the 2015 season. He’s a bargain at that price, and might even afford the Mets the opportunity to take on a large part of the salary and keep the player demand lower. It’s unlikely the D-Backs would part with Upton for anything less than a young major league outfielder with potential, to jump in and replace Upton immediately, one of the trading partner’s two or three best pitching prospects and two more in the top 20, however. Upton won’t come cheap.
For the Mets, this would possibly be Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Lucas Duda, along with either Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler, either Jeurys Familia or Jenrry Mejia, and Wilmer Flores. Arizona’s farm system is low on infield prospects. Is that worth it? I say yes. Remember the “not a no-brainer” above? Well, that means no deal if Arizona asks for both Wheeler and Harvey in the same deal. I’ll trade either one, but not both. After that, there’s no one I’d be upset parting with for Upton. I’d much prefer Duda go over Kirk, but I’m not going to hold up the deal over someone a month shy of his 25th birthday who can’t hit lefties and strikes out 30% of the time.
It would be irresponsible of me not to address Upton’s power struggle this season. His batting average and on base percentage aren’t cause for concern, hovering right around career norms, but his slugging percentage is 89 points lower than his career average and he’s on pace for full-season lows in home runs and doubles. This is likely attributed to the huge jump in percentage of balls outside the strike zone Justin’s putting in play. Contact isn’t as strong on pitches off the plate, which has lead to a near 12% decrease in fly balls and 9% increase in ground balls from last season. Ground balls tend to not leave the yard.
All that said, those numbers are not indicative of Upton’s career and could be categorized right now as just a blip on the radar. Under Dave Hudgens’ tutelage as he enters his prime, Upton would put those numbers behind him.
It’s entirely possible Arizona’s price is too high, or maybe they come out of the break hot and close the gap quickly in the West and become buyers themselves. But it’s not often an MVP candidate with an affordable contract comes down the pike. With the pieces in the farm to potentially make a deal, the Mets need to make every effort to make something happen.
Thumbs Down On Justin Upton
First, let me make this clear. I realize I am likely going to be in the minority with this one. I am not in favor of the Mets trading for Justin Upton during the 2012 season.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Upton is a talented player. I just feel he is wrong for this team, right now.
Before anybody assumes my reasons, let me detail them out for you:
- Chemistry: I feel like this team is performing above expectations, and above their own “everyday” abilities. I think they pick each other up, and they seem to have camaraderie like I have rarely seen in a Mets clubhouse. I feel like this team needs guys who can blend in, rather than start to take the spotlight away from players like Wright, Dickey, Johan, and maybe Davis and Tejada.
- Lucas Duda: If you tell me the plan is to put him in CF, then I’m more flexible on my feelings about this. However, if you’re telling me Duda is sent to Arizona then I’m out. I don’t LOVE Lucas Duda yet, but I believe he plays a roll on this team and fits with this team so well. I think if you add Upton in RF, you still have an issue in LF unless Duda is moved to LF. My initial thought is, it would take Duda in a deal to get Upton though.
- Fans: There have been several stories lately and two years ago about how Upton has reacted to fan criticism, including boos. Now, some stories say the fans are throwing out racial slurs. There’s no excuse for that ever. When it comes to boos and criticism though, if the Arizona fan base bothers you then you better buckle your seatbelt when you come to Flushing.
- Why now?: I am always very weary as to why a team like Arizona would trade a 24 year old player who is under contract? A player that the franchise has invested a lot of money and time in. Is it to get value, or is there a deeper problem that we don’t know?
- The Price: I’m actually not a huge “hold onto prospects” guys. Depending on where your team is at, I think prospects should also be viewed as trading pieces. If the price includes Harvey or Wheeler, then I’m out.
- Lingering Concern: In 2011, Upton had his best season finishing 4th in the MVP voting. He finally looked to hit the potential we all thought he’d hit. In 79 home games he hit .333 with 20 HR, 56 RBI and a SLG of .622. In 80 away games he hit .246 with 11 HR, 32 RBI and a SLG of .439. Chase Field is enormously different than Citi Field for an offensive player. I am not suggesting that Upton would be some terrible hitter in NY, I am suggesting that his best campaign was largely due to the fact he benefitted from a top 5 hitters parks in MLB.
At the end of the day, my worry is messing up a good thing. This team is where it is largely because of the team’s chemistry. I don’t feel they NEED a “spotlight” guy right now.
If you’re talking winter 2013, sure. Right now though, I don’t think he fits.
If it happened, I likely wouldn’t be upset. If you’re telling me Kirk, Familia, and Den Dekker gets Upton and he becomes the CF, then sign me up.
However, I feel he’s a 24 year old under contract and he will command a much higher pricetag. I feel like he will cost the Mets Duda or Valdespin plus Harvey or Wheeler. If that is the case, then I have to take my ball and go home.
About the Author: Joe DeCaro
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.
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