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Is the Rangers' next star outfielder playing in Arizona?

Is the Rangers' next star outfielder playing in Arizona?

Credit: Getty Images

Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton was one of the best players in baseball last year. He's going through a tough time, but at 24, is a very attractive trade target. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

by SAM HALE

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on July 8, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 8 at 3:13 PM

Not unlike the winds that will dominate Arlington in August, the trade winds around the Texas Rangers are swirling heavily right now. Rumors about potential targets are coming hot and heavy from all possible angle -- and the only end in sight is the July 31st trade deadline. Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels are the players most commonly connected with Texas in deals, which makes sense considering the recent pitching injuries the team has suffered. However, what if the most logical choice all things considered wasn't a pitcher? What if the most logical choice wasn't even a player that most of the baseball population see as currently on the market?

The player in question: Arizona outfielder Justin Upton. Arguably a top five young player in all of baseball, and when he's on his game a top ten player in all of baseball. A five-tool player, former first overall pick, only 24 years old, and signed to a very reasonable contract that extends until 2016. So why would Arizona, a team on the rise in the NL West, want to trade their unquestioned superstar?

Simply because all is not right out in the desert regarding the stud outfielder. In June, Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick said he was “pretty disappointed” in the season on the whole and said it was time for Upton to become a “consistent performer.” Snakes fans have been vocal as well, recently taking to boo Upton when he takes the field or steps to the plate. Upton isn't very popular right now at Chase Field, and with only 7 home runs and a .267/.350./.385 slash through 77 games calling his production lackluster in relation to his talent is apt.

This could very well be the perfect storm that really buouys the Texas Rangers. When Josh Hamilton's asking price shoots through the proverbial roof this offseason, Texas will need a star outfielder. Meanwhile Upton's 2013 price will be just over $9 million, while the last two years of his deal are $14 million and change. Very reasonable for a player who won't even be 30 when the contract expires.

It also fits exactly what Jon Daniels might want if he is looking for a bat. Upton is a player whose value has dipped some due to circumstance, who is under control with a team friendly contract, and would fill a hole in the outfield for the foreseeable future. Instead of being the best hitter in Arizona, Upton would walk into a lineup that is stacked with great hitters. He would not have to do it all;the pressure that undoubtedly comes with being the biggest star on a team would be lifted.

Upton won't be a cheap proposition by any means though. A package for Upton would have to start around either Martin Perez or Mike Olt, more than likely Olt since the Snakes' system is very pitching rich right now. That doesn't mean you get out without giving up at least one pitcher, as this might be the place where a name like Justin Grimm or Cody Buckel could be moved. It also might be a logical spot for a Johan Yan, or a deeper prospect like Roman Mendez.

One potential package could include Olt, Buckel and Mendez -- and that's probably a player or two short of the finished deal. This might be the time either David Murphy or Julio Borbon sees their time with Texas cut short and sent elsewhere, as you'd be bringing in a premier outfielder and the emergence of Leonys Martin along with Craig Gentry fills the fourth outfield role. In short, this would have to be a mega deal for Upton to shift shades of red right before August.

The possibility does exist though. Jon Daniels is the same general manager who figured out how to snare Cliff Lee when the team was still in bankruptcy for what is now looking more and more like a meager price. In the Carlos Lee trade, he fished Nelson Cruz out of the Brewers system and brought him here to become a star. He was able to wheel and deal for Mike Napoli, who four days before he was a Ranger was a member of the team's major rival.

Put nothing past JD, because he is a baseball ninja. The rotation is going to get healthy, and there's pitching aplenty in the system to restock this thing for years. A young, affordable superstar on the rocks with his current franchise only happens once in a blue moon. When the opportunity presents itself, you've got to take the plunge and make it happen. Being as bold as this would be could finally be the spark that makes the third time a charm here in Texas.

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