For those of you who have been waiting on Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners to make a big offseason splash, well, wait no longer. The Mariners just cannonballed into the swimming pool. Except, according to reports, the swimming pool was frozen over, or something, and there was no actual splash, and now the Mariners are injured. First, the exciting part, from Ken Rosenthal:
The Diamondbacks were in agreement on a trade that would have sent [Justin] Upton to the Seattle Mariners,
And now the other part, which is the rest of the story:
but the two-time All-Star rejected the proposed deal, major-league sources say.
The Mariners are one of four clubs on Upton’s no-trade list, according to sources.
When the Mariners missed on Josh Hamilton, and he signed with the Angels, there were reports that the Mariners made a very substantial, strong offer. Zduriencik said he felt good about the contract he put out there. Hamilton indicated that the Mariners didn't really separate themselves from the pack, however, so it was difficult to know just how hard the Mariners tried. There would've been some consolation in knowing for sure that the Mariners tried hard.
Here, the Mariners tried hard. This report has been confirmed by other people. The Mariners effectively traded for Justin Upton, who is both a big-league veteran and a potential superstar on a long-term contract. The Mariners made their big move, they landed their big bat, they dealt from their pool of prospects. Except Upton shot the Mariners down, as is his contractual right. That's out of Jack Zduriencik's hands. I mean, you could in theory hold Zduriencik responsible, since Upton might be more amenable if the Mariners were a better team, but there's nothing one can do to change the past. Zduriencik tried to change the present and the future, and Justin Upton was like, nope.
We've said it over and over: you can want for the Mariners to do things, but the Mariners can't force players to join them. A free agent can choose from all suitors, and a player with a full or partial no-trade clause can exercise said clause if he wants. The Mariners can upgrade only via the moves that are available to them, and for the time being, a Justin Upton trade appears unavailable.
What this doesn't mean is that the Upton/Mariners stuff is dead. The Mariners could, in theory, offer Upton something in exchange for him okaying a deal. Alternatively, the Diamondbacks could tell Upton the Mariners are his only other choice, and then he'd be left choosing between a team that apparently doesn't want him and a team that wants him badly. Maybe Upton is holding out for a deal to someone better, like the Rangers or the Braves, I don't know, but there's no reason this couldn't be re-visited, unless Upton put his foot down and intends to be unwavering.
It is humbling to see the Mariners get rejected by a player who's unwanted and underappreciated by his current employer. You'd think Upton would be sick of all the trade rumors, you'd think he'd be sick of the Diamondbacks putting him on the market. This could well be an indication of how the Mariners are perceived, and it's hard to disagree with the perception. The Mariners aren't in as good a position as many other major-league baseball teams.
But we don't know for sure why Upton said no. And it's important not to tear him to shreds because he didn't want to move. I guess maybe it's not important, on account of who cares what people say on the Internet, but Upton and his representation negotiated for this partial no-trade, and there's no point in having a no-trade if there's an unwritten rule that you aren't to invoke it. Upton negotiated for the right to have some say in his future, and you shouldn't lash out at him for your frustration with the Mariners. Upton didn't do anything wrong. Maybe when he turned down the Mariners he also said something mean, but thus far such a story hasn't been reported. Upton said no, and that's that. You can be disappointed, but it doesn't make much sense to be disappointed in the player.
There's no word on who the Mariners would've given up. We can guess, but we'd all just be guessing from the same pool of the same prospects. What's clear is that the Mariners and the Diamondbacks are suddenly a match, after the Diamondbacks got their young shortstop. Everything here was done, except for the one step. It's a critical step. It's a step that could still be overcome, but there's only so much the Mariners can do. They might very well have to focus somewhere else.
It's clear that Zduriencik isn't just hoarding his young talent. This news counters criticism that the Mariners are allergic to making a big splash, and it counters criticism that the Mariners overvalue their own minor leaguers. Jack Zduriencik and Kevin Towers built a big deal. Justin Upton just walked by and knocked it down, and though Zduriencik and Towers could try to put it back together, they'd first have to talk to Upton to see what it would take for him to not just do it again.
What a thing to have happen.