Could Justin Upton be on the Detroit Tigers radar?

The Arizona Diamondbacks have made it clear in recent days that they will entertain trade offers for their star right fielder Justin Upton. Is it possible that he’d be a fit with the Detroit Tigers and could they put together a strong enough package to make it happen?

First, we must look at the D-backs’ outfield situation. If Upton were to be sent packing it would leave just 3 outfielders on the regular roster: Jason Kubel in left, Chris Young in center, and the electrifying Gerardo Parra in right.

Perhaps no bench player in all of baseball deserves a better fate than Parra. He is one of the elite outfield defenders in the game and does a little bit of everything offensively – definitely a Kirk Gibson kind of a guy. Kubel has been very solid in his first year of National League play.

The idea of trading Upton would be a lot easier if Chris Young could fire up his offense. Since coming back from an AC joint injury in his shoulder he has been a shadow of his true ability.

Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers

Justin Upton

With limited depth in the outfield it would seem likely that Arizona would not only require some top-tier prospects in a deal for Upton but also a Major League-ready outfielder.

Now to the Tigers. It’s no secret to anyone that they would love to ship Delmon Young and his absurd mustache to a city far, far away. Despite him probably being more useful in an American League lineup with a DH slot available he could be a throw-in piece.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers decide to float Brennan Boesch’s name out there too. He could jump right into Upton’s former spot in the desert and perhaps the change of scenery and new voices would do him some good. He is still immensely talented.

And at risk of being run off of isportsweb as a writer (don’t worry, I co-founded it, I’m safe) Quintin Berry might also make for an intriguing deadline deal piece. Can he really get any better? Will his value ever be higher than it is right now? Sell high-buy low. Words to live by for all GM’s. For a recent example look no further than Kevin Youkilis magically coming to life after being traded to the White Sox. Chicago bought low and is reaping the reward.

All this is to say that the Tigers do indeed have some moveable parts that are at least Major League ready.

Detroit is on record as wanting to add a power-hitting, right-handed bat to their outfield mix. Upton fits the bill. He is in his 6th season yet remains just 24 years old until late August. He had a career season in 2011 during the playoff run put together by Gibby’s snakes.

During ’11 Upton hit .289 with 31 homers, 39 doubles, 88 RBI’s, and 21 steals. So far in 2012 his numbers are depressed (.267, 7 HR, 10 doubles, 36 RBI’s) and he doesn’t seem to be jiving with the powers that be in AZ.

Contractually, the Tigers could reasonably afford Upton. The D-backs locked him up long-term at a young age and a decent price. He is making a shade under $7M this year and is signed through 2015. Next year he gets a bump to just under $10M and then he tops out in the mid $14M’s for the final 2 years of his deal. So he is basically getting Delmon Young money right now and close to it next year and then Victor Martinez money during his final 2 years. VMart would be off the books after 2014 so there would be a one year overlap to work through there but it still seems doable from a financial perspective.

In other words, the Tigers can afford this guy. But can they put a package together that works for Arizona? I don’t see why not.

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The Tigers could offer a few major leaguers in the deal as well as some prospects. Arizona is fairly loaded in the pitching department throughout their organization and might like to see more position players in a potential trade.

Would a package of say Brennan Boesch (or less likely Delmon Young), one of the system’s top rated catchers (Rob Brantly or James McCann), one of Casey Crosby or Andy Oliver (or both!), and perhaps an Avisail Garcia (highly rated prospect just promoted to AA Erie) be enough? It can’t be that far off.

Imagine for a moment an outfield of a healthy Andy Dirks in left, Austin Jackson in center, Upton in right and Berry coming off the bench. Assuming Delmon gets moved in this or another deal, and even if he didn’t, Upton could immediately slot into the #5 hole behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Now we’re talking.

A top 5 batting order of Jackson, Dirks, Cabrera, Fielder, and Upton sounds utterly scintillating. Throw in Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, whoever they add at 2nd base, and a DH (eventually Victor Martinez) and this team would be in business from an offensive standpoint.

These scenarios are being played out in the offices of Comerica Park. Viability will depend on how steep Arizona’s asking price is but to be able to add a player of this caliber and not giving up top prospect Nick Castellanos would be a dream deal.

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  • Keith in Brighton

    Joe that would be a GREAT deal, BUT there are a few issues that would have to be overcome. First, if I am not mistaken, in Upton’s last contract he had a no-trade clause that listed 5 teams. Guess who one of those teams listed on Justin’s list was….yes the Detroit Tigers. Now before everyone pounces on me that Detroit are contenders, Justin Upton signed this deal in March-2010, so after the Tigers were already playing good and made it to the world series. The 2nd stumbling block is AZ has made it well known they need and want a 3B, which is why they were going after Youkillis. If the Tigers REALLY want Justin Upton AND Justin Upton is willing to waive his no-trade clause that includes the Tigers, it will for sure cost us Nick Castellanos in a package deal. I would still do that deal because for the talent you are getting back you almost always trade young unproven talent at the big league level for proven young MLB talent, especially with Upton’s contract for the next 3 years. I would say Castellanos, Boesch and 2 of your young pitchers (if you could have AZ take both Crosby and Oliver). It would be nice to get Aaron Hill in that deal as well but that for sure would cost us a top notch minor league pitcher. Nice article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002888832233 David Tasha Lehman

    Joe,

    Unfortunately, Keith is right about the no trade clause (Which really rubs me the wrong way!) Who knows though, maybe he would come to Detroit now? Oh well … great article though! I love looking around the web near the trade deadline! Keep’m coming!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000054642360 Josh Gedert

    Berry has no trade value whatsoever. Next, it has to be an extreme package to acquire Upton. Castellanos or/and Turner HAVE to be included. There are no doubts about that. Maybe even both. Oliver has little trade value (just a throw in) and Garcia is in AA. A package of Castellanos, Rondon, Garcia, Boesch, and Oliver/Crosby may have to be put together for Upton, and I’m not sure if that’s worth it with his attitude.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fred-Ricardo/100001492625247 Fred Ricardo

    Upton, 3/3/10: Signed six-year, $51.25 million contract. 2011: $4.25 million, 2012: $6.75 million, 2013: $9.75 million, 2014: $14.25 million, 2015: $14.5 million, 2016: Free Agent. Limited no-trade protection (may block deals to four clubs: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland).
    Towers is not happy with the “Super Star” and would trade. Being third in a weak division, beating the Dodgers whose DL look like the All-Star line-up in nothing to brag about. Now get a good trade.

  • http://twitter.com/isportsJoe Joe White

    Guys, I understand the no trade clause but you’d have to be a real dummy to pass on hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder for a few years. He’d put himself at max value as the contract expires and he enters his prime looking for the jumbo deal. Plus Prince would be a tremendous mentor for him.
    It’s tough to speculate on the trade pieces at this point but I do think a deal is at least possible.
    Thanks for all the comments. It’s a fun time of year.

  • http://twitter.com/isportsJoe Joe White

    Josh, you think it would take 4 or 5 of probably their top 6 prospects plus a legit big leaguer to get him? I’m not so sure.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000054642360 Josh Gedert

      Probably 4, and I’m not sure Boesch is a legit big leaguer. You are 100% correct in that Boesch’s change of scenery will help him. But, Justin Upton was one of the top outfielders last year, and he still has multiple years left on his contract. Also, many teams will be on in Upton, and it’s easy to think that one team will overpay for him. The Tigers farm system isn’t great, so Garcia, Rondon, Oliver/Crosby may not even be that high up on other systems’ rankings. Who knows, I honestly think that deal I posted makes sense for both teams especially since Oliver and Rondon won’t make huge impacts at the next level.

      • http://twitter.com/isportsJoe Joe White

        Reasonable.

  • http://isportsweb.com Rob White

    I can’t imagine how lethal the line up would be with Cabrera, Prince and Upton. Fast forward to 2013 and you throw V-Mart back in the mix as well…

  • The Corrector

    V-Mart is under contract tell after the 2014 season also…C’mon Man!

    • http://twitter.com/isportsJoe Joe White

      Wow. You’re right. No clue how I missed that. Always thought it was a 3-year deal. Thanks.

  • rschutzpah

    I don’t like the idea of getting rid of Garcia… not worth it if they have to butcher their farm that much.

  • Alec Brzezinski

    Upton would be a great upgrade in the outfield, but that’s one position both offensively and defensively we don’t need any help in ( assuming Dirks comes back from injury soon). I wouldn’t trade Delmon yet he’s heating up, but I agree with you completely that Boesch would do better somewhere else, as would Porcello. Going after a middle infielder like Hanley Ramirez or Rickie Weeks would benefit us more in the long-run. I wouldn’t complain if we got Upton, but I think it would help the Tigers more to get a legit #2 pitcher or a solid middle infielder more.

  • Pingback: Arizona Diamondbacks trade rumors: Why they are shopping Justin Upton | Next Level Sports

  • Jay

    It amazes me how many ppl would hold on to prospects (aka magic beans) rather than using them to go out and get a great, proven, young player who’s only available bc he’s having a down year. There’s no question I would trade anyone in our farm system for Upton bc at 24, he’s only gonna get better than his 2011 numbers. Until these prospects prove something on the major league level, you can’t tell me they’re untouchable. Castallanos may be great, Garcia may be great, but we don’t know that yet. Upton has at least shown he can be great on the major league level. If he’s available, it’s a no brainier u go after him with whatever u have.

  • Jay

    It amazes me how many ppl would hold on to prospects (aka magic beans) rather than using them to go out and get a great, proven, young player who’s only available bc he’s having a down year. There’s no question I would trade anyone in our farm system for Upton bc at 24, he’s only gonna get better than his 2011 numbers. Until these prospects prove something on the major league level, you can’t tell me they’re untouchable. Castallanos may be great, Garcia may be great, but we don’t know that yet. Upton has at least shown he can be great on the major league level. If he’s available, it’s a no brainier u go after him with whatever u have.

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