Justin Upton Rumors: Examining a Potential Trade with the Tampa Bay Rays

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIINovember 12, 2012

ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 03:  :  Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on October 3, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

It appears as if the Arizona Diamondbacks are as willing as ever to deal star right fielder Justin Upton, though no team has actually emerged as a clear favorite yet this offseason. It's still very early, so the market for his services could shape up quickly.

The Texas Rangers are reluctant to move shortstops Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar for Upton, making the next most logical destination for the youngest Upton brother Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Rays have a wealth of pitching that could be of interest to the Diamondbacks. Both James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson are potential targets, though the Rays would probably be more willing to deal Hellickson.

Hellickson, the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011, pitched to a 10-11 record this season with an ERA of 3.10.

His mediocre record was a direct result of the poor lineup the Rays used. Hellickson's 1.254 WHIP and low ERA suggest that he could thrive on a team with even an average offense.

This should make him appealing to the Diamondbacks. Not only did Hellickson post those numbers on a poor offensive club, he posted them in the American League East. The National League West is a much weaker offensive division, and the Diamondbacks are capable of scoring more runs per game (4.53 to 4.3 in 2012) than the Rays.

That would suggest that Hellickson could be a potential 16- to 18-game winner in Arizona.

The Rays could also throw in top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee. Lee has played as high as Double-A in the Rays' system, so he could be ready to contribute to the big club within a season or so.

This could be appealing to Arizona, as the combination of John McDonald and Cliff Pennington isn't exactly the most reliable offensively.

Lee, although not a powerful bat, has the ability to drive the gaps. Through parts of four minor league seasons, Lee has 31 triples. Over that same time frame, he also stole 127 bases.

Lee could be an impact guy at the top of Arizona's lineup, especially considering the fact that they lack a true leadoff hitter.

This package would be a perfect return for Upton. The Diamondbacks improve their rotation, which is essential in the pitching-heavy NL West. They also improve at the top of the lineup when Lee is ready, giving them a leadoff hitter for the better part of the next decade.

If the Rays offer this package to general manager Kevin Towers, he'd be wise to accept.