I just finished eating a bologna sandwich. Probably not the best thing I could have put in my mouth but my pork shoulder is currently doing it’s thing in my oven so it wasn’t quite ready to consume. The reason I bring that up is that we can all agree that a hunk of pork shoulder is a better meal than a slab of bologna on a couple of pieces of white bread. Somehow though the Diamondbacks front office has convinced itself that Justin Upton is a piece of bologna and not something that should be savored. From where I sit this position seems nonsensical for a myriad of obvious reasons.
(1) Upton is just 25 years old. There is a very real chance that he hasn’t reached his peak as a ballplayer yet.
(2) No one seems to notice that even in a terribly disappointing season that he was three homers and two steals from going 20/20. There is that other little fact that he scored 107 times which tied him with Andrew McCutchen for fourth best total in baseball. If that’s a “down” season there are about 725 other big league players who would shave five years off their life to be a “down” performer year after year.
(3) Upton has a season in which he hit .300. Upton has a season in which he hit 31 homers. Upton has a season of 88 RBIs. Upton has a season in which he has scored 107 runs. Upton has a season that he stole 21 bases. That’s a fine piece on pancetta and not a hunk of bologna.
(4) The 25 year old Upton is signed for the next three years for roughly $500,000 less than $39 million that Shane Victorino just upped for three years with the Red Sox (for more on Victorino see his Player Profile). Victorino is 32 years old, has never hit 31 homers, never scored 107 runs and has never driven in 88 runs. Not even close.
For some reason the D’backs have been alternating between – we have to move Upton to we will listen to offers for Upton to we will not be trading Upton. It’s been that way for more than a year now. I just don’t get it. Is Upton a HOF talent? I would suggest that he is. Has he consistently performed like a HOF talent? The answer is obviously no. That’s frustrating, I get it, but the guy is just 25 years old. At 25 years of age Ryan Howard had 107 games of big league experience. Upton has appeared in 108 or more games for five years now. Why on earth would the Diamondbacks consider giving up on Upton at his age? Are they really ready to say that even if he doesn’t improve one bit, if his 162 game average of .278-28-108-97-18 is maintained for the next three years, that he isn’t worth the $38+ million he is to be paid? I’m telling you there are about 29 other teams that would gladly pay him that, especially considering that there is a very reasonable chance, as I’ve already stated, that Upton could improve upon the numbers he has posted to this point of his career.
This is all I can figure. One of the following issues must be going on with Upton behind the scenes.
He parties with hookers and blow.
He gambles incessantly.
He has an odd predilection or two that might be considered borderline illegal.
He’s a disaster in the club house.
The issue with all of that is that NONE OF IT appears to be true. Not a single one of those things is known to be true with Upton, so what gives Diamondbacks? None of us outside of your organization get it – at all.
Maybe the D’backs are privately saying one or more of the following things.
(1) Upton has failed to live up to expectations. We know that he is just 25 years old but he should have established himself as a superstar by now and he hasn’t.
(2) Upton has failed to reach 20 homers or 70 RBIs in two of the past three years. How can we trust this guy to be the player we build our franchise around being that we aren’t exactly a huge market club and can’t afford to pay a guy roughly $13 million a year if he is going to hit like Jason Kubel.
(3) For all his talents, what kind of improvement is he going to show if he keeps striking out so much? Upton has whiffed at least 120 times in each of his five full seasons after all.
You already know my thoughts about his age.
Yes he has failed to be a big time run producer in two of the past three years, that is certainly a fair critique. However, in 2009 and 2011 he averaged 29 homers, 87 RBIs and 95 runs scored. I also noted his elite line over the past four years (per 162 games), but here it is again: .278-28-108-97-18.
Yes Upton strikes out too much (just like his brother B.J. Upton who you can read about in this Player Profile). On the flipside his K-rate has been well below his 23 percent career rate the past two years (18.7 and 19.3 percent). There is also the fact that for three years running Justin has shown a slight improvement in his K/BB ratio (0.40, 0.42, 0.47 and 0.52). I would also point out that while his OBP hasn’t been great the past five years that the number has always been between .353 and .369 as he has consistently gotten on base at a solid level.
I have no idea why the D’backs keep trying to trade this guy. My only concern with Upton in the fantasy game is directly tied to all of this nonsense. How long will he be able to keep his cool and go out there an perform day after day when it is clear to him, I mean like someone walking in on their spouse with another person in bed, that he’s no longer wanted. Will that mental strain wear him down and ultimately erode his production? I’d still draft Upton as my #1 outfielder and feel very good about it, but it would be great of the Diamondbacks made up their mind, once and for all, what their plan is with Justin Upton.
By Ray Flowers