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Upton's availability, and other miscellany

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 19, 2010 08:17 AM

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Bwyy16QEGkKGrHqFhMEv10tRBMKmlI75_12.jpgFirst, a heads-up. No chat today, or next Friday for that matter. Call them a couple of midseason maintenance days.

We do have a few things going on. Some programming notes:

  • Today's media column, taking a look at the first few days of the Dennis & Callahan simulcast and a bunch of other stuff, is right here.

  • Aiming to have the second installment of the 60 Best Topps Baseball Cards posted this weekend. The feedback on part one was pleasantly overwhelming, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the next five. One clue: The next edition includes two players I truly loathe, and neither is Roger Clemens.

  • If you missed it Tuesday, our Red Sox podcast, hosted by Daigo Fujiwara, is over here. Always a blast to do the hot-stove chatter thing with Nick Cafardo. We'll be doing the podcast every other week during the offseason, so be sure to keep checking it out.
  • Since a couple of your mid-afternoon hours are freed up now that you don't have to suffer through the chat, how about some assigned reading for your lunch break?

    The news that the Diamondbacks are listening to offers for Justin Upton caught me by surprise. I mean, he's 23, is a legitimate five-tool player who is already established as a star, and just completed the first year of a very reasonable six-year, $50 million deal that runs through 2015.

    That's not a kid you trade; that's a kid you build the entire franchise around, and that's what the Josh Byrnes regime was trying to do. That new general manager Kevin Towers is considering dealing him, even after a season in which Upton's OPS dropped 100 points to .799, was enough to make a skeptic wonder if there was more to it.

    Maybe his shoulder injury that bothered him from time to time is lingering. Maybe there's an attitude issue, something that shadowed him occasionally but hardly ominously during his rapid ascent through the minors. Maybe . . . well, it's got to be something. Other than a high strikeout rate, there's no baseball reason to trade Justin Upton? Is there?

    Well, yes, actually there is. Which brings us to that assigned reading. Tim Marchman as SI.com has a very insightful piece that succeeds in answering the question we've been pondering: Why in the world would the D-Backs trade Upton?

    The simple response is that dealing him -- in a trade, by the way, that Towers says they "have to win," meaning he's have to be overwhelmed to pull the trigger -- gives the D-Backs a chance to fill numerous holes on a team that has . . . numerous holes.

    Beyond the chance to roster remodel . . . well, then it gets more interesting. Because as Marchman writes convincingly, history strongly suggests that there's a fair chance he's not going to get much better than he already is at age 23. Turns out young surefire would-be superstars actually become superstars in their mid-to-late 20s much less often than you'd think.

    Upton's baseball reference comps provide supporting evidence. He's most similar player through age 22: Ruben Sierra. And you never want to see Jeff Francoeur on any young player's comp list; he's 10th here.

    The other question as it pertains to Red Sox fans is whether Theo Epstein should pursue a deal for Upton -- a potential cornerstone, or the potential next Ruben Sierra -- while knowing Towers's price will be exceedingly steep.

    Me, I'd say sayonara to Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard (as talented and fun as he is, he a relief pitcher), albeit with considerable reluctance. Which I suppose is the sign of a fair trade. And probably a sign that Towers would ask for even more.

    About Touching All The Bases

    Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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