Justin Upton: The Final Piece?
As been rumored for the past week, the Indians have now, according to Buster Olney and Jeff Passan, traded for Brandon Moss, giving up semi-prospect Joe Wendle. Now, another rumor, courtesy of Joel Sherman, has linked the Indians as possible trade partners with the Atlanta Braves for star outfielder Justin Upton. Sherman reports that the Braves are looking for a starting pitcher and a second basemen in the trade. Other teams reportedly interested in Upton are the Royals, Rangers, and Padres.
Is there any chance that the Indians could actually make such a trade? There is one key factor in this potential trade, and that is the fact that Justin Upton has Cleveland listed as one of the teams in his no-trade clause. Upton also has three other teams on his no-clause, the Cubs, Brewers, and Blue Jays. Before being traded to the Braves in the 2012 offseason, Upton blocked a trade that would have sent him to the Seattle Mariners, so even if the Braves and Indians agree on a trade, Upton can block it, thanks to his no-trade clause.
Before I say any more, I want it to be known that I do NOT think this trade will happen. But, if it did, what would the Indians have to give up? First off, they need to find a dumping ground for one of these contracts: Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, or David Murphy. The Brandon Moss trade added a potential $7 million to the Indians payroll, bringing it up to around $80 million for 2015, adding Upton (and his $14.5 million salary) would bring the Indians to a $95 million-range payroll. Next, while the Indians do have an enviable amount of middle infield depth, the starting pitching organizational depth is pretty thin once you get past Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, and Salazar.
The Indians, to pull off this trade, would most likely have to trade Jose Ramirez plus either Trevor Bauer or Danny Salazar. While many fans seem to be on the “Don’t trade Ramirez” train, remember that the Indians have a top 10 prospect in Francisco Lindor ready to take the mantle at shortstop. Trading away Bauer or Salazar would hurt the Indians rotation for 2015, but with the potential top 5 offense, it should offset the loss at pitching. Here’s what a potential Indians lineup with Justin Upton would look like:
As good as the lineup looks, here is a potential starting rotation:
Justin Upton will be 27 years old at the start of the 2015 season, still in the beginning of his prime. He has one more year until free agency, so if the Indians were to trade for him, he would only be guaranteed to be in a Tribe uniform for one season, is that enough for trading away potentially Jose Ramirez and Danny Salazar? In 2014, Justin Upton had a .270 BA, with 29 HR, and 102 RBI. Either way, as it currently stands, the Indians are positioned for success in 2015.
— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)