Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upton Baby

So the Red Sox were making some waves a couple of weeks ago when they made a trade bid for Justin Upton. This is pretty intriguing. Upton is obviously a good baseball player. He's nearly four years younger than the 27-year old young player with tremendous upside who wore #46 the last time he played 20 games in one season. He's good for 25 home runs and potentially 25 stolen bases as well. He hit .300 at age 21. It is starting to be a little troubling how much he strikes out, but he is a very solid baseball player. A potential All-Star.

Perhaps the most intriguing part is the fact that he's under contract through 2015, with his salary maxing out in the last two years of this deal at over $14 million. So if he's traded for, he's sticking around for a while. Upon the inevitable unavailability of the three current outfielders right now, an outfielder is needed, and upon the inevitable departure of Drew and Cameron after this year and 46 after three more, there is a lack of minor league outfielder depth.

Besides the obvious sticking point of the D'Backs' asking price, the other concern regarding acquring this guy (or any outfielder for that matter) is how the team projects Ryan Kalish. Kalish has vaulted many in the Red Sox' prospect charts, and he is now the Red Sox' second-rated prospect by Soxprospects.com. Also notable is that Kalish is one of only two outfielders ranked in the top 15 (Josh Reddick, who had a really bad season, is the other).

I don't think anyone projects Kalish, who is roughly the same age as Upton, to ever be as good as Upton. Perhaps his ceiling is as a borderline all-star. But I've read in a few different places that Kalish projects to be a solid major league corner outfielder similar to Trot Nixon minus the juice.

So the real question here is: Would the Red Sox be okay with trading Kalish, Casey Kelly, and possibly someone like 46 or Matsuzaka for a guy like Upton and then go get Werth? (Of course, this is also a problem because they'd then have three right fielders.) Are they comfortable with Kalish as a long-term solution, or is the Trot Nixon projection inadequate for their needs? Kalish would also be sticking around until 2015, and most likely he wouldn't be receiving raises as aggressively as Upton.

I'm still on the fence here. Kalish is less production for less cost, and Upton is more for more. If the trade package involves Kalish, Casey Kelly, and a major leaguer like 46 or Matsuzaka, you at least gotta think about it.

However, any package involving Daniel Bard should be declined.


Patrick said...

interesting thought here gm, good spot.

regarding kalish i think the projection as a solid major league corner outfielder is fair. the fact that he is moving up and not down the prospect depth chart is a good thing. but we know what a guessing game that is. just last year, the other young outfielder you reference - josh reddick - was the 3rd best prospect in the system according to baseball america. we saw how quickly that can change. this has absolutely no bearing on kalish, it's just one more thing to keep in mind when evaluating him as a trade candidate. for a sure-fire player (ie, adrian gonzalez), this is the kind of prospect you really don't hesitate to include as a major part of the package.

the issue here is that justin upton is not yet that kind of player. he has every tool in the world you'd want, and therefore limitless upside. but there is still projection involved with him. my guess is that if you got him in an organization like the red sox, and put him in a park like fenway for half of his games, his numbers would go off the charts. but it's still a decent risk to give a major package for him. that money at the end of his current deal could be a bargain, or it could be very expensive.

therefore i think you're less production for less (kalish) vs. more production for more (upton) is the important analysis here. if i could do it for kelly, kalish, and ellsbury/matsuzaka, i would. upton is worth that kind of risk.

regarding the three right fielders, i wouldn't let that get in the way of this deal or signing werth. we know werth can play both left and center, as he's spend a good deal of time at both positions in the last three years. i'm sure upton would have non problem playing left, and could probably play center if you needed him too as well. drew is also off the books after this year, and at this stage you can't let his presence in 2011 impact any decisions that might help the organization in 2011 and beyond. you could say he's already done enough in terms of blocking positive developments for the organization over the last four years, and you can't let that continue with him this close to being gone. although i really, really hope the red sox re-sign/extend him. just as with the josh beckett extension, just let yankees fans know how they can help out in terms of making this possible.

the gm at work said...

Nobody's extending JD. JD's retiring in exactly nine months and 27 days.

Reddick and Kelly's 2010 seasons were basically light versions of Lars Anderson's 2009 season. I'm not liking how this is starting to happen all the time in the Red Sox' organization again.

I know that Upton at age 22 is no 46 at age 27 (AKA a young player, so much potential, going to grow into his body, upside with no ceiling), but his upside is definitely intriguing. There is reason to believe that by 2015 he could be the player Gonzalez is now. And that's exciting. Then again, he could turn out like his brother.

I especially like how Drew blocked David Murphy from a major league position in Boston. But David Murphy never had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.

Patrick said...

i totally agree that by 2015 upton could be gonzalez. forget that, he could be gonzalez by 2011. that's something you could not really say about ellsbury beyond that one breakout september/october. this is why i agree, for the right package, you take the risk on upton. he's got a chance to be special the way few players in the game are.

i do not think j.d. drew will retire at the end of this season.

the gm at work said...

Totally agreed on Upton. It's boring that the only two people who read this post today are on the same page on this.

However, we are on different pages when it comes to JD Drew. He talked about retiring after 2011 in March and again in September. It's definitely happening.

Plus, think about this. If you were near the end of your career, have several dozen acres of land to bow-hunt in at least two different states, had mountains of undeserved money, and hated your job as much as JD clearly hates his, wouldn't you retire the first minute you had the chance? Seriously, it was hard enough to get JD to actually play baseball more than once a week the last four years when he was getting paid the highest amount of his career. Do you really think you could get JD to play baseball for less money? Gimme a break.

In 2012, somewhere in southern Georgia near the Florida border, there will be an adult beer league that plays on Friday nights and only Friday nights. JD will play the first five innings of the Friday night game, go 2-2 with two absolute bombs and a walk, and pull up lame with a hammy in the seventh a) because he realized how much he hates playing baseball and b) so he could go home, go to bed early, and get up at dawn to go hunting.

Patrick said...

haha, well played. that last paragraph got me good.