Justin Upton Reportedly Rejects Trade to Mariners

Dave · January 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

It has been pretty obvious that the Mariners were talking to the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton, as their hunt for a right fielder drags on. The Diamondbacks and Upton are headed towards a break-up; the only question is when, and where Upton lands as a result. If we assume that this report is true, then that means that the Mariners and Diamondbacks agreed on the pieces in a deal, because Upton wouldn’t have been asked to accept a trade that wasn’t agreed to. The D’Backs price for Upton is known to have been extremely high, which is why he isn’t a Texas Ranger right now, despite their pursuit of him all winter. The fact that the Mariners were able to make an offer that Arizona would accept is a pretty big first step.

The second step, of course, is getting Upton to agree to the deal. As of right now, that seems to be a problem, and I know a lot of people are going to say that Upton will never change his mind. Pitcher’s park, losing team, blah blah blah. Yes, you can convince yourself that the Mariners can never have nice things and the world is ending and life is terrible and Howard Lincoln is the devil and all the other things you guys like to believe. But I wouldn’t be too sure that Upton won’t end up in Seattle before all is said and done.

No-trade clauses are generally put in place for two specific reasons:

1. A player is committing to an organization for the long term and wants to put down roots, and the no-trade gives him the security of knowing that he’ll be able to play in the same city as long as he wants. Often, this is related to a player choosing a team for geographic locations. Carlos Lee, for instance, used his no-trade to stay with a dreadful Astros team for years because he has a ranch in Texas and didn’t want to leave. These are usually blanket no-trade clauses, and are given to a select few players.

2. A player’s agent negotiates a limited no-trade clause, with the player being able to select a handful of teams that they don’t wish to be traded to. These lists can usually be changed each off-season, and they generally are adjusted for leverage purposes. Agents stay on top of the rumor mill, and they figure out where the most likely destinations are for their client if he is going to be traded, then choose those organizations as the teams to block, giving them the most amount of leverage possible. Despite what you might suspect, players generally don’t just choose “bad” teams that they don’t want to play for, because bad teams are often rebuilding and are unlikely to trade for high priced talent to begin with. The goal isn’t to be able to block a trade, since that’s not possible to begin with, but to have as much say in the process as possible.

Clearly, situation #1 doesn’t apply here. Upton isn’t staying in Arizona long term, and there’s no desire on his part to stay in Phoenix for the long term. Given how often they’ve tried to trade him, you can imagine that he’d be thrilled to get a fresh start somewhere else. Upton is a classic example of no-trade situation #2. The fact that the Mariners are on his no-trade list is not proof that he has no interest in playing for Seattle – it’s proof that his agent realized that the Mariners were one of the most likely teams interested in trading for him.

Want proof? Here’s an article from July detailing the four teams that were on Upton’s no-trade list for the 2012 season: the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Cubs. Clearly, he’s not just picking long time losers, nor is he eliminating teams that play in pitcher friendly ballparks. It’s a leverage strategy.

So, if the Mariners want to continue pursuing Upton, they have to decide how much more they want to give up to get him. They’ve already settled on the players going to Arizona – now the question is how much cash will change Upton’s mind. That could be in the form of a contract extension, but for a player in Upton’s situation, he might not want to sign a long term commitment before getting a chance to play in his new home, especially since he’s on track to hit free agency after his age 27 season. Instead of an extension, perhaps the Mariners best bait is to either shorten the commitment, or to give him a player option.

Right now, Upton is under contract for the next three years, with guaranteed salaries of $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014, and $14.5 million in 2015. The team could potentially offer him a player option for 2016 — likely valued in that same $15 million range — or offer to convert the 2015 portion of his guaranteed years into a player option, allowing him to opt out and become a free agent a year early if he’s not enjoying his time in Seattle. By making that kind of concession, the Mariners would essentially be giving him his choice of an extra $15ish million in guaranteed money, or by giving him the chance to pick his next destination earlier than he would if he went somewhere else.

Maybe the Mariners aren’t willing to make that kind of offer, since they’re presumably surrendering a good amount of talent to get him in the first place, and this will all die off as the team turns to Plan B. But, just because Upton said no to accepting a deal without compensation doesn’t mean that the Mariners can’t change his mind. Especially if Arizona tells him that they’re not trading him to one of his preferred destinations, leaving his options between staying with an organization that openly talks negatively about him or to going to a team that actually wants him.

Upton isn’t a free agent. He doesn’t get to pick where he plays next year, but he can use his no-trade clause to get himself into a better situation. Now, it’s up to the Mariners to see if they can convince him that Seattle is a better situation. They have tools at their disposal to try. Don’t be surprised if they use them.

Update: Jerry Crasnick reports that Upton’s no-trade list for this year is BOS, TOR, CHC, and SEA. So, basically, they swapped out the Yankees (known to not be committing to more than one year deals) and Indians (were strong reported to be off-season sellers) for the Blue Jays and Mariners, two teams who had a ton of salary coming off the books and a strong desire to add offense. For those of you clinging to the idea that this is all about the park, Toronto is one of the best places in baseball for a right-handed power hitter.


90 Responses to “Justin Upton Reportedly Rejects Trade to Mariners”

  1. MrZDevotee on January 10th, 2013 8:01 pm

    Based on the Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor, Charlie Furbush, plus a “big three”, I’d make that deal, gladly.

    They’re all fairly easily replaceable. Franklin doesn’t have a position (assuming he wasn’t sticking at SS), Pryor and Furbush are from the pile this team stocks most easily, and if you add Mauer, we’ve got 4 young pitchers vying for at most 3 spots, and no reason not to believe we’ll be adding more like them in future drafts.

    We gain at top tier Major League talent and lose nothing irreplaceable from our system.


    And I agree with an earlier comment– it seems that if the ‘Backs were trying to get another team involved just today than the 72 hour negotiation window hasn’t happened yet, yeah?

  2. MrZDevotee on January 10th, 2013 8:02 pm

    When a player invokes their “no trade clause” is that open information to the rest of the league, through the league office? Or was this a leak?

    (Just curious)

  3. Seattleken on January 10th, 2013 8:14 pm

    When Franklin was drafted the knock was that his range was not major league quality. The report was that he would end up at second. The M’s disagreed and went for him as a SS, now it seems they don’t see him as a shortstop either.

    Franklins limited to secondbase or maybe outfield. As secondbase he is blocked by Ackley and Franklin wont hit enough to be a good outfielder, I be thrilled his hes the second prospect in an Upton type deal.

    It was the same with Clement scouts said he couldn’t catch, but we wasted a top three pick on what we hoped would be a good hitting catcher (.280 with 20 homers). When we dumped him he was at best a below average firstbaseman.

    Montero we once again paid what seemed like a high price for a very good hitting catcher. But as the Yankees knew, and we found out he is not a major league catcher. So our best hope is he learns to play first and put up average firstbase .290 with 25 homers and isn’t a butcher in the field.

    We need to change our thinking in our draft picks, we need to draft exceptional defense at short, center and catcher. Because drafting good bats for those positions with iffy range and/or ability pretty much never pans out and their good bats at those positions usually are below average at the other positions.

  4. _Hutch_ on January 10th, 2013 8:52 pm

    Heyman reporting it was Walker in the deal. Eeesh – come on Jack.

  5. ivan on January 10th, 2013 9:10 pm

    “But as the Yankees knew, and we found out he is not a major league catcher.”

    Keep repeating it enough times, and maybe people will think it is true. The guy is 23 years old, has played one full season in the bigs, and is a work in progress. You don’t have sufficient data to make that claim.


    Drayer gives us, in detail, where the team thinks Montero is in his development as a catcher. I don’t claim that he is Roy Campanella or Johnny Bench or Yadier Molina. But there is no hard evidence to say he can’t become an average defender. There’s just a lot of opinion, and a herd mentality.

    Everybody here seems to be in love with Jaso, and I like Jaso just fine, but how much better is Jaso defensively than Montero is? Not much, if at all. Who has more of an upside defensively? Montero, obviously.

    If he becomes Victor Martinez to Zunino’s Alex Avila, DHing most of the time and being the #2 catcher, that’s good enough for me.

  6. thedude1987 on January 10th, 2013 9:28 pm

    walker just seems too much

  7. rfhansen1123 on January 10th, 2013 10:32 pm

    What makes Upton worth all this?

  8. kinickers77 on January 10th, 2013 10:43 pm

    So, if they are able to convince Upton to change his mind, we now know the full package.

    Walker, Franklin, Furbush, Pryor

    Is that worth it to you or not?

    I’d rather Hultzen or Paxton instead of Walker but I think I might still do it.

  9. roosevelt on January 10th, 2013 10:43 pm

    Absurd trade proposal—if true.
    Concerned that Z is concerned about [his] short-term welfare. Selling the future for better very short term results.

  10. diderot on January 10th, 2013 10:50 pm

    “What makes Upton worth all this?”

    One of the top ten outfielders in baseball.
    Our number 3 hitter for as long as we can keep him here.
    25 years old.

  11. 300ZXNA on January 10th, 2013 10:52 pm

    Granted pitching prospects flame out more than hitters, but I thought the whole reason why Upton is so attractive is that the is a bit of undervalued asset due to his poor season. This does not seem like the proper value for a player coming off a down year.

  12. Seattleken on January 10th, 2013 10:53 pm

    Upton is worth it because he produced 17.1 WAR in 3030 PA. Thats basically 5 seasons (age 21-25)where he has averaged 3.4 WAR and hasn’t even reached his peak years (27-29) yet.

    The cost is less than Toronto paid for Dickey or KC paid for Shields as the only elite player in the deal is Walker. Franklin is not an elite guy, and the other two are relief pitchers.

    If this deal happens I will be thrilled with the move, as only one guy traded from the farm (Walker) would be in their 5 year plan, and hes a pitcher the one thing they can attract to Safeco.

  13. Seattleken on January 10th, 2013 11:07 pm

    Other points:

    1> Upton played hurt from April -July. Then looked like 2011 final 8 weeks.


    2> If the M’s can’t sign him in three years he would bring back a first round pick as a free agent as he’d easily get a qualifying offer. With that pick you can get another top prospect back.

    3> The move would provide the Mariners with a batting equivalent to Hernandez, which they could market.

  14. rfhansen1123 on January 10th, 2013 11:10 pm

    He seems pretty risky. Every other year he plays at a superstar level. But the other years hes above average. How do we know what kind of player we are getting when we are giving up this much. By the time we are ready to compete we will be trading him for prospects. I doubt the Mariners will re-sign him.

  15. terryoftacoma on January 10th, 2013 11:12 pm

    If Dave’s correct above we may not have him for three years but two. Does that make a difference with you? This year and then trade him or lose him next year.

  16. Seattleken on January 10th, 2013 11:15 pm

    If the two years happens then its a toss up in terms of the deal value wise but I would still do it.

    As the M’s have a very weak offense and not much in terms of hitting prospects coming up. I’d hate to lose our best pitching prospect but atleast we have a top quality guy with Hultzen who would be many teams #1 prospect.

  17. Gibbo on January 10th, 2013 11:26 pm

    Hey thought some people that are not on twitter might like this message from David Aardsma….

    Upton missed out big time not going to Seattle, great city, great fans. #doesntknowwhatheismissing

    That is one classy statement from the DA and nice to see a player throwing out some support for us.

  18. maqman on January 11th, 2013 3:12 am

    I’m glad this deal did not happen, Upton is overrated and would be significantly impeded by playing in Safeco, plus the players lost would be too significant by a bunch. This would have been Z’s worst move ever and I really like him.

  19. Bryce on January 11th, 2013 6:14 am

    Bob Nightengale keeps saying on Twitter over and over that Upton was never coming to Seattle so the talks were a big waste of time. That strikes me as a player or his agent picking a prominent writer and telling them that it wasn’t about renegotiating his deal. He just doesn’t want to come here. Seems pretty clear that it’s not gonna happen.

    Oh well, I guess the 2013 Bay/Ibanez pupu platter offense with a $65 million payroll it is.

  20. cebo04 on January 11th, 2013 7:11 am

    I’d be ok with this trade. Though there’s a good chance it is dead in the water, Justin Upton has a pretty high ceiling. What we were giving away wasn’t as valuable as I think we as Mariners fans think. Franklin has been offered up to just about everyone and though Walker is a talent, Dave has said many times that you can’t predict a pitcher’s health. We know what we are getting in Upton and that could be a cornerstone of the offense for years to come…you know, if he were to waive his no-trade clause. I love our prospects and hate to see them go, but I can already see the comments if Franklin or Walker turn out to be a bust or get injured as to how we “could have had Upton.”

  21. ChrisFB on January 11th, 2013 7:13 am

    Bryce – I saw elsewhere that Harold Reynolds (brother of Upton’s agent) also heard that this was a “don’t want to play in Seattle” and not a negotiating tactic. But again, that’s through the grapevine, and not directly from the parties involved, and even if something is from the parties involved, they’re not necessarily giving a straight answer.

    In any trade negotiation ever, you will never know the true conversations or effort unless you’re directly involved in them, reading every text, hearing every phone call, sitting at the table. We’re not there. We’ll never know, so it’s pointless to guess motives or characterize effort.

    And in general I don’t understand the hyperbole around how bad this deal supposedly is.

    They would be trading a middle infielder (of which there are several good ones in the minors and majors), bullpen arms (which have been proven to be findable and a strength of the org) and a promising AA arm (when there’s like 3 or 4 other good starters, at least, coming in the next 2 – 3 years). They’d be getting back an outfielder who is more capable than the entire ML and AAA outfields combined. Upton is a significant upgrade over any of this year’s blue light specials, a significant upgrade over Wells / Saunders, healthier than Guti, better than Thames or Carp will ever be and a quantum leap ahead of the likes of Peguero.

    The team has depth in pitching. The team does not have depth in outfielders. This trade is solid.

  22. built2crash on January 11th, 2013 7:27 am

    We have an idea now what the package looks like. I’m still not convinced it’s a good deal for the M’s, and I have not seen anyone on the blogshere say they hope this happens. Dave is this a good trade for the M’s? were giving up allot of PROSPECTS.

  23. IPAinspector on January 11th, 2013 7:54 am

    I was a little shocked at the amount of talent we were prepared to give up at first, but after having time to think about it have reconsidered. Like many others are saying in this thread, the only piece in this deal that hurts to lose is Walker, and who knows how far he is from MLB anyway. Considering the unpredictability of prospects, especially pitching prospects, this seems like a pretty good deal.

    On the other hand, this is approximately the package I imagined we would try to get Stanton with. Does this mean Stanton would require another premium piece to pry him from Miami?

  24. bfgboy on January 11th, 2013 8:10 am

    Add Carp and Seager, and send Upton to Miami…

  25. Mahoney5500 on January 11th, 2013 8:21 am

    I admit it looks worse than just a negotiating tactic. With that being said, if he is so opposed to Seattle, wouldn’t we be on his no trade list every year? Why just get put in this year?

  26. currcoug on January 11th, 2013 8:28 am

    If the proposed deal included Walker, Furbush, Franklin and Pryor…then Justin Upton may have just saved the Mariners from themselves.

    I never liked Upton, or his brother for that matter. This isn’t the guy to build the team around.

  27. MrZDevotee on January 11th, 2013 9:18 am

    I’m resisting the urge to call him names, but yeah, it seems Upton made it clear to everyone BUT the Mariners that he would never accept a trade here.

    Gee, I’m not sure I believe those “headcase, attitude” rumors about him. Sounds like we may have lucked out, in some aspects.

    Good try though, GMZ. Who’s next? (Any chance Florida looks at that list of players we offered and thinks… “hmmmm…”)

  28. vertigoman on January 11th, 2013 9:19 am

    Sounds like the news on the potential package offered is burning other GMs.
    By leaking the names, it sets the market both for Upton and other trade candidates on his level. Not that it was the Ms doing the leaking.
    There have to be teams frothing at the mouth to get that package plus or minus some names in exchange for their own player/players.
    Bottom line is the cat is out of the bag regarding what Seattle is willing to do to get a premium bat. There is of coarse lots of debate as to whom is exactly a premium bat.

  29. MrZDevotee on January 11th, 2013 9:19 am

    (Vertigo- we were thinking along the same lines there…)

  30. Paul B on January 11th, 2013 9:33 am

    I’m seeing that the starting pitcher in the deal was Walker. If that is true, then I’m not sure how I feel about this deal. If it was one of the other two, then I think I’d be OK with it.

    Losing Franklin would hurt, as he gives the Mariners the future flexibility to trade Ackley or Seager, assuming he could play second or third. But for 3 years of a good outfielder, I think I’d do it.

  31. Mini Mogul on January 11th, 2013 10:14 am

    I keep hearing some people want Upton and some don’t (I wanted him) but it does look like it’s more than a negotiation tool and that he doesn’t want to come here…so even those of us who really want Upton I think can agree that I now have NO interest in Upton!!! No one is saying that Upton doesn’t have attitude issues and do you really want him here if he doesn’t want to come?!?

    I’ve heard that the Dbacks could tell him they won’t trade him anywhere else so it’s M’s or stay where he’s not wanted….How terrible could that turn out for us if he did change his mind, come here and be pissy for 3 years? I don’t want him here if he doesn’t want to be here!

    I do also LOVE how the names came out in this deal so everyone in baseball knows that when Stanton is on the market, he is ours!!!

  32. Mini Mogul on January 11th, 2013 10:16 am

    Also now that it’s clear Upton just flat doesn’t want to be here:

    SCREW YOU JUSTIN UPTON! Here’s the Bird!

  33. StatBoy on January 11th, 2013 10:28 am

    Thats not clear at all MM, calm down.

  34. Mini Mogul on January 11th, 2013 10:32 am

    It’s clear when the brother of Uptons agent announces that Upton was never going to agree to go to Seattle!

  35. terryoftacoma on January 11th, 2013 10:38 am

    I think even Dave has conceded that this trade is dead in the water.


  36. StatBoy on January 11th, 2013 10:59 am

    Yes but the reason for it not working out is not necessarily because Upton doesn’t want to play in Seattle for emotional or other reasons. More likely to be a business decision.

  37. Mini Mogul on January 11th, 2013 11:05 am

    No not more likely…its been spelled it out clear as day. Don’t be in denial. It’s like when the really hit girl turns you down, it’s not because she’s emotionally unavailable….it’s because you (Mariners) drive a Prius instead of a Bentley. It’s ok, just have to be honest with ourselves. Until we compete for at least a playoff spot, the hot chicks ain’t gonna want to date us!

  38. MrZDevotee on January 11th, 2013 1:16 pm

    I don’t think he was in denial, he was saying it could have been a decision based on he doesn’t want the prime years of his career spent at Safeco Field, ie, negatively effecting his next contract– a “business” decision in THAT sense.

    Denial had nothing to do with it.

  39. ThanatosK on January 11th, 2013 2:52 pm

    I agree fully MrZ. I can understand Justin Upton not wanting to come to Seattle and it isn’t a personal thing or a dislike for our community. It’s purely money. The key is that the Mariners are not likely to be able to give him enough in cash now to offset the risk that he might lose later.

    Basically, when Upton’s current contract ends, he is likely to sign one more big money, multi-year, deal. Depending on how he performs, that next deal is probably gonna be somewhere between the deal Nick Swisher made this year and the deal Josh Hamilton made. If he comes here and hits 90-100 rbi for 3 years…he may get a deal closer to Swisher. If he goes to a better offense (Texas, NYY, etc) then he may hit 120+ rbi for 3 years and get a Hammilton size contract. (Yes, I know there are more things that RBI involved but I’m shooting for a simple example here)

    Obviously there are a very large number of other factors that will come into play but if I was Upton, I would be most concerned about that next contract. The difference very truly could be 50+ million dollars depending on where he goes.

  40. bongo on January 12th, 2013 10:44 pm

    “Selling the future for better very short term results.”

    [Bongo] This trade could be a net positive for at least two years, and won’t really hurt until 2016 when Upton becomes a free agent. If Upton stays healthy and is worth 4 WAR in 2013-2015, the trade should be WAR positive in 2013 and 2014 and neutral to slightly negative in 2015 before potentially looking awful in 2016 when Franklin and Walker have been in the majors for a season or two and Pryor and Furbush have had a chance to mature.

    That bundle of benefits/costs looks good to a GM who won’t be around in 2016 to witness “le deluge” if he doesn’t get a better team on the field very soon.

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