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Saturday, December 22, 2012
Time to make another run at Justin Upton?

By Richard Durrett

The news that the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to terms on a three-year, $26 million deal with outfielder Cody Ross (that ESPN.com's Jim Bowden reports includes an option year with a buyout) means they have a surplus at the position.

ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweets that the D-backs are looking to trade one of those outfielders.

Obviously, the biggest name on the list is Justin Upton. Things certainly heated up on the Upton front at the Winter Meetings, but at that time Arizona needed a shortstop in the deal. They don't now after getting Didi Gregorius, a young prospect at short, a few weeks ago. Arizona does have the luxury of sitting back and not moving Upton unless they get terrific value, and the club has other outfielders that could be dealt -- Jason Kubel could be the most likely one to go.

But if Arizona listened to Upton offers before, they could continue to keep their ears open. Maybe without needing a shortstop, there's something the Rangers could do. Could Mike Olt headline a package? Would the D-backs want pitching prospects? The Rangers have some of those and a farm system that could entice Arizona. The question, as always, is price. The Rangers won't panic and vastly overpay, either.

Upton, though, could certainly provide a boost to the Rangers' lineup. He also fits the club's overall philosophy in that he's a young player (25 years old) under club control through the 2015 season. Upton hit .280 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 2012. He had a .785 OPS and his speed helped him steal 18 bases. He played in 150 games.

Upton has a career .278 average and has hit at least 15 home runs in each of his past five seasons. He had 31 homers in 2011 and 26 in 2009, so the power is there. He's also stolen at least 18 bases in each of the past four seasons. Upton will make $9.75 million this season, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015 before he becomes a free agent.

But what if an Upton deal just is too expensive in terms of prospects? Kubel could be on the market. He turns 31 in May and bats left-handed (Upton is a right-handed hitter). He's coming off an impressive 2012 campaign in which he hit a career-high 30 homers and drove in 90 runs. He had an .833 OPS. He made 123 starts in left field in 2012 (and one start in right). He could give the team a power jolt. He makes $7.5 million in 2013 and has a $7.5 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout, so any team that trades for him will at least be paying him $8.5 million.

Upton is the more intriguing player with his track record and age. He's someone that could join the current core group and be a staple for a few years in Texas. The question is what it would cost. Kubel isn't a bad backup choice since the Rangers have a right-handed heavy lineup (though David Murphy, the current left-fielder, is also a left-handed hitter). Kubel is also cheaper.

How badly do you want Upton? What are you willing to give up? (And no, Jurickson Profar is not a name that should be discussed when it comes to this deal.) Would you rather see the Rangers go after Kubel?