The Big Splash Option
A lot of people are hoping that the Mariners will make a big splash this winter, landing a big power hitter like Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn. That’s looked unlikely at best all along, and we’ve tried to caution that the Mariners off-season is likely to be a bit more low key than that. They don’t have a ton of money to spend, and most of the big name options don’t make sense for where the organization is and what it needs.
Until now. You’ve probably heard that Kevin Towers is now willing to listen to offers for Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks young outfielder, and rumors have swirled over possible landing spots over the last few days. Joel Sherman reported this morning that the “Diamondbacks have growing belief (they) will trade Upton based on ton of interest.” The more reports surface, the more it sounds like this is something Arizona may be planning on doing, rather than just kicking the tires to see what they could get for him.
If Jack Zduriencik wants to make a big move to improve the offense, Upton’s availability gives him that chance. He’s signed through 2015 for a total of $49.5 million, but only $4.25 million of that is due in 2011, so he’d fit into the team’s modest pool of available cash. He turned 23 in August, so acquiring him wouldn’t be a short term desperation move that would require sacrificing the future to improve the present. And, he fits a lot of what the Mariners need.
Yes, he’s a right-handed power hitter, but he’s the kind of right-handed power hitter that the team needs – a guy who drives the ball to all fields. Of his 60 career home runs, only 31 have been to left field. While a lot of right-handed thumpers are great when they pull the ball and lousy when they do anything else, Upton has a .511 wOBA when he hits the ball to left, a .439 wOBA when he hits it to center, and a .365 wOBA when he hits it to right field. Here’s Upton’s spray chart for his 2010 home runs, via Hit Tracker:
He wouldn’t love Safeco, but it wouldn’t kill him either. He’s the kind of slugger who could survive the park and still be a productive hitter in Seattle.
On FanGraphs yesterday, I estimated Upton’s future value, and as you can see, he’s a huge asset, as his contract will pay him just a fraction of what he’s actually going to be worth over the next five years. Given his age and abilities, the expected career path for him ranges anywhere from Ruben Sierra to Reggie Jackson – he’s almost certainly going to hit for power, and if he gets the rest of his game to develop, he could be one of the all-time greats. Even if he doesn’t, he should be a nice player.
Of course, acquiring him would not be cheap. The D’Backs will only deal him for a big offer, but the Mariners have the pieces to put together a big offer. If Jack is willing to build a package around some of the organization’s best pieces (and we’re talking guys like Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley, or Justin Smoak here), the M’s could get Kevin Towers attention.
Should they? That’s a different question, and depends on the asking price. But, the opportunity is now in front of them. If they want to make a big move to acquire a franchise slugger, they have a shot.