SEATTLE — The Mariners, at least for now, have lost out on an opportunity to make a dramatic addition to their perennially bottom-feeding offense.
The Mariners reached agreement on a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks that would have brought two-time All-Star outfielder Justin Upton, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, to Seattle.
But Upton vetoed the trade, which was first reported by Fox Sports and confirmed by The Seattle Times. Upton’s contract has a limited no-trade clause that includes the Mariners and three other teams, identified by ESPN as the Blue Jays, Cubs and Red Sox.
The package put together by the Mariners for Upton was portrayed as “substantial,” believed to include shortstop Nick Franklin as well as one pitcher from the “Big Three” triumvirate of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. All four are universally rated not only among the Mariners’ top five prospects, but among the best in MLB.
And that likely wasn’t all. According to CBSSports.com, the Mariners were also prepared to send relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor in the deal.
Reached by The Seattle Times, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik declined to comment. He has worked all winter to improve the Mariners’ offense, which has ranked as the worst in the majors for the past three years.
Upton, who has been dangled by the outfield-glutted Diamondbacks all winter, would have provided Seattle a major upgrade in a corner outfield spot, albeit at a high cost in young talent. Upton hit .280 with 17 homers and 67 runs batted in last season. In 2011, he finished fourth in the MVP voting after hitting .289 with 31 homers.
It’s possible the deal is not dead, though the Diamondbacks are said to be getting interest in Upton from other teams, most notably Texas and Atlanta. Upton’s older brother, B.J., signed as a free agent with the Braves earlier in the winter. The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that the Rangers had made their final offer on Upton and were “moving on.”
Justin Upton signed a six-year, $51.25 million contract extension with Arizona in March of 2010, which still has three years and $38.5 million remaining. He will be paid $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014, and $14.5 million in 2015.
It’s possible Upton could have a change of heart on his Seattle veto if the Mariners agree to restructure his contract. Or if no other trade options develop, he might opt to take the deal to get out of Arizona.
But it’s also very possible that the flirtation of the Mariners with Justin Upton is over.