Sunday, July 8, 2012

Justin Upton...A Buc?

Well, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports just dropped a bombshell on us. He reports that the Bucs are interested in Carlos Quentin of the Padres, which is fairly common knowledge. Then he added that they're talking to Arizona about Justin Upton. Now that's out of the blue.

Upton is an immensely talented 24 year old RF who's been an All-Star twice in the last four years. He's a legit 20/20 guy who cranked out 31 long balls last season and would provide honest protection for Cutch in the lineup. An added benefit is that Upton's in the middle of a McCutchen-like six year, $51.25M deal that runs through 2015, so he's under team control for a while.

He's hitting .267/7/36 this season, and has a lifetime slash of .276/98/332 in his sixth season. Upton's K rate is Pedro-esque, but he has a very healthy .356 OPB and .475 slugging % during his career. The blush is off his apple this year in the desert, and he looks like a classic change of scenery type player. The only downer is a persistent rumor that he has shoulder problems, but we assume the FO would perform due diligence before pulling the trigger.

We wouldn't get too hot to trot quite yet. Pittsburgh isn't the only team that would like to land him, so if he becomes available (pending the D-Backs position in the NL West/Wild Card races) quite a bidding war would break out for him.  Our guess is that at the minimum, the Pirates would have to ante up Jameson Taillon, Starling Marte and one of the Indy starters if they're serious, and that's quite a departure from the build within philosophy of the FO.

But he is a young guy and under control, and you can't hang on to prospects forever; deals like this are the reason you stockpile talent in the minors. And as an added benefit, it forces the Pirates to push a little harder to sign Mark Appel just to keep the pipeline flowing, although one never knows the end result when you hand Scott Boras a little leverage.

So hey, nothing near a done deal. But this is a new direction for the Pirates and sure helps make the deadline wait a lot more interesting than the usual Derrek Lee watch. It also shows that the management has a little faith in this club. The stars aligned so that Pittsburgh became competitive a year or two before the blueprint called for, and the FO is trying to take advantage to keep that schedule on a fast track.

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