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Chat wrap: Justin Upton trade scenarios

7/10/2012

It was a two-hour chat marathon and the primary topic of discussion: Justin Upton trade rumors. Overall, there were some interesting scenarios proposed by readers, but I think the majority underestimate Upton's value: He's a 24-year-old right fielder who finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2011. He's signed through 2015 at a pretty reasonable rate -- $6.75 million this year, followed by $9.75 million, $14.25 and $14.5. The early rumored landing spots for Upton include the Blue Jays and PiratesInsider.

How good is Upton? I do think there are questions on whether he is a "franchise player," whatever that label is supposed to mean. According to Baseball-Reference.com, since 2009 Upton ranks 17th among outfielders in WAR, at 12.1, just behind Matt Kemp and Shane Victorino ... but just ahead of Angel Pagan. How come he doesn't rate higher? For one thing, his on-base percentages aren't superstar-caliber, ranging from .353 (2012) to .369 (2011). His offensive value gets downgraded since he plays in a hitter's park, which is seen in his career home/road split: He has a .924 OPS at home, .744 on the road. Of course, he plays a large percentage of his road games in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, three pitcher's parks. His defensive value is about average; some would rate him above-average due to his strong arm.

What an interested team has to decide: Will he get better (he turns 25 in August) or has he reached his peak? And if he has, how valuable is that peak? We know Upton is a good player, even if he's off to a slow start. I'd be wary about trading him; on the other hand, I'd be wary about giving up too much to acquire a player who may be more "very good" than "annual MVP candidate."