Seattle Mariners: Could an Upton Family Reunion Be Coming to Safeco?

Thomas HolmesCorrespondent IIINovember 16, 2012

Waiting is the hardest part, right?

Baseballs' free-agency period is often an endless string of rumors and conjecture that periodically leads to somebody signing for way too much money in a place you'd never expect, but more often it is much ado about nothing.  

Still, we can't seem to help ourselves as we gossip like teenagers wondering who will end up courting who each year because what else do we have to discuss between now and after the Super Bowl? 

This year, it would appear that slugger Josh Hamilton has everyone including the Mariners curious, but beyond that small piece of news, it seems the only chatter involving Seattle came from USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Then again, it is only the middle of November.

So while we wait, I figure I'd share a joke that turned into a rather entertaining/interesting debate.

When discussing the Mariners' plans this offseason a friend of mine jokingly asked, "Should the Mariners trade for Justin Upton, sign his older brother B.J. in free agency or hire supermodel Kate Upton?"

After we all agreed that Kate would probably be the best option by assuming she'd likely sell more tickets and can't be any worse than Carlos Peguero or Brendan Ryan at the plate, we got down to business on if and how the front office should pursue either or both B.J. and Justin.

"Justin is about to enter his prime and has showed some serious flashes of greatness!"

"Perhaps, but did you know that he has never driven in 100 runs in a season?"

"Justin is going to cost us Taijuan Walker and either Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager or Nick Franklin!"

"What about trading James Paxton instead?"

"Isn't B.J. going to cost us our first-round draft pick if we sign him?"

"Is B.J. really 28 now?"

"What are the odds of the M's getting both?"

And that's when we all stopped to laugh, as chances are slim that the Mariners could or should acquire both. 

It was at that point we all agreed that while both are tempting, the risk is simply too high, as both have the potential to make some GM either look like a genius or get them fired depending on what expectations are placed upon each of them.

We also worried that coming to Seattle could force both to swing for the fences as the star attraction rather than find a spot within an established lineup.

"But do you think that (general manager) Jack Zduriencik can risk going another year without signing a big name?"

"Why not sign Nick Swisher instead?"

"Because he'll be 32 soon and will also cost us a draft pick.  Besides, he's not really a big name."

"Perhaps, but didn't Dave Cameron at USS Mariner show that Swisher is a better buy for the money over Prince Fielder?"

"That's nice 'Moneyball,' but what do we do about the Upton brothers?"

"Doesn't anybody think it's strange that Arizona wants to unload Justin?"

At this point I thought about what both Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci and the Seattle Times Larry Stone had to say about that. 

First, SI's Verducci offered up this theory that also included a mention of the Mariners:

What really makes Upton attractive is the idea that the best is yet to come—not unreasonable given he only now should be approaching his prime years. The potential of Upton is even more valuable than the track record of Upton, and the Diamondbacks, after giving him more than 3,000 plate appearances, appear willing to cash in on that value.

It's even more likely bigger years are ahead if you believe Upton will flourish with a change of scenery. Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle, Texas, Washington, the Cubs and Atlanta all should be interested.

The Seattle Times' Stone then adds his own thoughts: 

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. I'll admit it: This is a name that continues to intrigue me, probably more than any other on this list. And many people in baseball believe the Diamondbacks will trade Upton, despite the fact they already dealt Chris Young to the A's last week. The Diamondbacks really want and need a shortstop and a third baseman, as well as pitching help (power arm for the back end of the bullpen, situational lefty, starter).

The price tag on Upton will be high, as it should be for a player with his upside, but he's also coming off a disappointing year (partially attributable to a thumb injury), which may lessen the D'backs' bargaining position. Upton is just 25 and has MVP potential. He finished fourth in the MVP race just two seasons ago. The Diamondbacks have a lot of young outfielders, so Upton could be expendable.

One more factor to toss around: He's signed for three more years at $9.75 million, $14.25 million and $14.5 million, which is reasonable for a superstar, but daunting for someone not up to that standard. It's a situation to monitor closely; there's a chance the Diamondbacks might end up trading Jason Kubel instead of Upton.

Intriguing indeed, and this is what makes choosing either Upton so difficult. 

You could argue that Justin is the better of the two given the mix of his age and potential, but it will probably cost more when you consider what the M's would need to trade the Diamondbacks. 

"Essentially, you either empty your wallet for B.J. or your farm system for Justin."

But is it that simple, and which choice makes the most sense for the Mariners?

At the end of the day, B.J. would cost the M's a draft pick and the Braves a good deal of money, according to Mark Coleman at following B.J.'s visit to Atlanta: 

With the assumption that Josh Hamilton will be too expensive, the Braves appear to regard Upton as the most attractive outfielder available on the free-agent market.

But the Braves are not the only National League East club interested in Upton.  The Phillies are believed to be making a serious push to land the 28-year-old outfielder, who has been with the Rays since being selected with the second-overall selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

Upton and Michael Bourn will both likely get five-year deals worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million.

Technically, the M's could afford $15 million, yet I think a team—and by extension, an organization—like Atlanta would be a better fit for him.  The Braves for years now have seamlessly pieced together a roster that just keeps winning. 

Upton should be able to blend in nicely rather than have an entire fanbase expect him to save the day. 

Meanwhile, that would leave us with Justin, but won't he cost the M's so much more?

That depends on how much value you wish to place on prospects Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Brandon Maurer and an everyday player like Kyle Seager.

Would a package of those players get the Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to make a move?

What about swapping out Walker for James Paxton and adding Carter Capps instead?

Honestly, we could play this game for hours, but it only matters if Jack Z is actually playing.

I think the temptation to go after Justin will grow depending on whether the M's can sign a big name to play outfield for them next season.  If Jack Z comes up empty in free agency again over the coming weeks and months, he might have to give Kevin Towers a call.  

If things do get to that point, it might be hard to resist. 


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