Justin Upton, the Arizona Diamondacks' 24-year-old star outfielder, could be available on the trade market later this month, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. If the Diamondbacks do that, the New York Yankees have to get involved in the discussion.
Arizona is 40-43, six games out in the National League West. Rosenthal said the Diamondbacks would "consider offers" if they fall from contention.
The Yankees have become increasingly budget-conscious in recent seasons and have vowed to get below the $189 million luxury tax threshold within the next couple of seasons. Upton has a hefty contract ($6.75 million this season, $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015) but it might be difficult for the Yankees to pass up making a run at the right-handed hitting slugger.
Starting left fielder Brett Gardner has missed all but nine games this season due to a mysterious elbow injury. His status for the remainder of the season remains up in the air. The Yankees have gotten by with a variety of veteran fill-ins thus far, but Upton would provide a huge upgrade.
There are also long-term reasons for the Yankees to be interested in Upton, as Rosenthal also notes. Right fielder Nick Swisher can be a free agent at the end of this season and the Yankees are expected to let Swisher leave. Starting center fielder Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 homers a season ago and has 23 already this season, can be a free agent after the 2013 season.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported today that the Diamondbacks have indeed told teams Upton is available "for the right package."
General manager Brian Cashman has admitted that the Yankees don't have any major-league ready outfield prospects in their system and will have to look outside for help. Upton, thus seems like a player the Yankees have to chase if he is available. River Ave. Blues agrees, saying:
"He's so young and dynamic, capable of doing just about anything on the field. You'll get speed, on-base ability, hard-to-find right-handed power, and a guy under contract through 2015 for just over $40M. No one in the farm system should be untouchable for a guy like Upton."
Upton finished fourth in National League MVP voting a season ago when he hit .289 with 31 homers, 88 RBI, 21 stolen bases, a .369 on-base percentage and a .529 slugging percentage. Upton is having a down year in 2012 (.267, 7 homers, 36 RBI, .384 slugging percentage) but the talent, the youth, the fact that he is under contract thru 2015 and the fact that the Yankees have no major-league ready talent remotely like him makes him a guy the Yankees should pursue aggressively if he hits the market.