Sports Opinion & Analysis

It’s Time To Part Ways

In MLB on November 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

By Jonathan Danielson

After being drafted first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2005, Justin Upton finally had an MVP caliber year in 2011. After suffering a thumb injury, he greatly underperformed in 2012 though, but these things sometimes happen to young and highly talented players.

Upton is only 25 years old, after all. Ups and downs are to be expected.

But with all the potential for a guy who is good, young, and signed with the team until 2015, you have wonder why D-backs General Manager, Kevin Towers, would ever listen to an offer for his right fielder, let alone seriously consider one.

Yet at this point, Towers must not only consider offers, but he has to accept one. Soon. As in, before Spring Training.

“You guys are going to be sorry you ran me out of town.”

When Upton was first drafted seven years ago, scouts and analysts agreed that he had the potential to become the next Ken Griffey Jr. That he was better than his older brother, B.J. Upton, who happened to be the number two draft pick the year before. That he was the next big thing in baseball.

So why should Towers ship out the guy on the verge of greatness?

The problem with Upton is that problem isn’t really Upton. While he hasn’t yet lived up to the hype that surrounded him coming into the league, the Diamondbacks have doubted him and questioned him and publicly belittled him during his maturation. And it’s not like ostracizing their greatest players is something new to this franchise. Look at how they completely destroyed their relationship with Randy Johnson, and forced him to another team for his 300th win. They didn’t just miss out on that milestone for their former World Series co-MVP, but because of their actions Johnson is still threatening to go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner. The Diamondbacks don’t have the best track record of maintaining healthy relationships with their biggest icons.

Concerning Upton, the Diamondbacks have repeatedly shopped their All-Star year after year, and in doing so, have completely destroyed any future relationship they hope to have with him and his potential greatness. Who wants to stick around when you know your bosses don’t believe in you? How can you show up to work everyday and give your best when that cloud always looms overhead?

So now Kevin Towers has no other choice now but to trade away the team’s most valuable player. There are rumors that Upton is on the move to Texas, where the Rangers would ship back shortstop Elvis Andrus in return. There are rumors that  he is going to replace his older brother in Tampa Bay, where the Rays will send back pitcher James Shields and infield prospect Hak-Ju Lee in return.

While Adrus and Shields are proven players, neither of them have the star power Upton does, and which the franchise has desperately lacked since the Johnson-Schilling-Gonzo era. In trading Upton, Towers is hoping that he gets the players he needs to win, and that the ascension of Paul Goldschmidt will fill the hearts of Diamondback fans longing for a star.

The future face of the Diamondbacks. That is, until management pisses him off too.

Towers is hoping that Trevor Bauer (unless he too is also traded) will grow up and become the player he’s capable of. That an outfield made up of slugger Jason Kubel, 2011 Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra, and PCL Rookie-of-the-Year and MVP Adam Eaton is better than one without Upton. That Aaron Hill will stick around longer than his contract. That Miguel Montero will be worth his new contract.

Considering all the potential Upton has, trading him away is a big gamble for a team in a sometimes apathetic market, who longs for winner and a star to root for. But, because of the way Towers has repeatedly cried wolf by threatening to make a trade, but never pulling the trigger, that gamble is all but already made. The relationship between management and player has already been destroyed. For the Diamondbacks sake, let’s hope there is at least a promising return.

And that Goldschmidt gets a little more respect than the last stars to wear a D-backs hat.


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