This is a couple days old, but still worth mentioning: Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Rangers have inquired on the Braves' Justin Upton, which doesn't come as a shock given the amount of times they've tried to trade for him in the past. Lonestarball's Adam Morris recounts Texas's near-trade for him back when he was with the Diamondbacks, but more recently -- something I forgot -- in 2013 when they attempted to shovel Matt Garza, Joe Nathan and David Murphy onto Atlanta in exchange.
Again, it's not surprising Texas are interested. Even I mentioned him as a possible trade target a couple weeks ago, so this isn't exactly rocket science we're talking about. The Rangers need a middle-of-the-order bat who plays corner outfield, and Justin Upton is really good. It's as simple as that.
What isn't so simple is the money involved, or the game of musical chairs Jon Daniels is going to have to play with his roster to get Upton in return. There's the money aspect, sure -- Justin is owed $14.5 million in 2015 before becoming a free agent after the year -- but there is also the philosophical quandary of what prospects are an organization willing to give up for one year of a really good player?
According to Sherman's source, the Braves are "requesting a higher return" for Upton than they recently received from the Cardinals for Jason Heyward, which is fine. They can ask for the moon if that's what they really want; it doesn't mean they're going to get it.
The problem with such an asking price -- better than four years of Shelby Miller control and a pretty good pitching prospect to boot -- is that Justin Upton is (a) not as good of a player as Heyward and (b) costs more money. That isn't the recipe for netting a more substantial return, which is why the absolute ceiling for Upton in a trade is a controllable mid-rotation starter and a pretty good prospect. That is not insignificant, but that is all.
Dave Cameron has a nice article up on FanGraphs explaining why Upton shouldn't cost more than Heyward, and concludes it by saying, "Any team that pays the Heyward price for one year of Justin Upton will likely end up regretting it." Cameron isn't exactly the god of analysis, but I believe he's on point here.
Part of the allure of Justin Upton, at least from the Rangers' front office perspective, is the idea that he would be playing in a contract year and the possibility that they would be able to extend his contract at some point during the season. With inflation and the cost of each WAR going through the roof, he's almost assuredly going to be a $20 million-plus AAV outfielder once he hits the free agent market, but this is the Rangers we're talking about and they have some bucks to play with after 2015.
Still, the questions remain: How much do you pay for one year of Justin Upton? How do the Rangers view themselves on the win curve next year? Adding Upton makes sense in that it will make Texas four of five wins better in 2015, but of what value does that hold if it's only going to bring them up to 83 or 84 wins? If they make this trade, based off the $20 million or so they are perceived to have at their disposal this offseason, they would essentially be shutting down their winter. Sign Upton, sign Colby Lewis, and then have another $2-3 million to find another pitcher? I don't know.
Something is taking place behind closed doors. I don't know about it; you don't know about it; we'll have to wait and see. Justin Upton would be an impressive addition to the lineup, but at how much he's due to make in 2015 conflated by the cost in prospects it's probably going to take to get him, smart money is on Texas passing on the asking price, even if comparable options are bleak elsewhere.