I was working on something completely different and somewhat historical yesterday afternoon when word broke about the nixed Justin Upton trade between the Diamondbacks and the Mariners. I wouldn't say the news came out of nowhere -- the Mariners have been rumored to be in the hunt for Upton for weeks, if not months, which are also weeks -- but it did catch me off guard, in that I wasn't expecting to write so much about Justin Upton. From a content generation perspective, it was welcome. From a are-the-Mariners-better-now? perspective, it was unwelcome.
Eventually, we learned some more details on Thursday. The Mariners had agreed to send to the Diamondbacks Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, and one of their top pitching prospects. Most of the rest of the details were filled in Friday. Most importantly, the pitching prospect has been identified as Taijuan Walker. This is all to be referred to as "reportedly", since nothing has been officially confirmed, but the teams involved would never officially confirm such a thing. The only way to know for absolute certain what the Mariners would give up for Upton would be to have an Upton trade actually go all the way through.
But just because we can't confirm anything doesn't mean we can't assume it's probably accurate. The Mariners and Diamondbacks probably agreed to an exchange of Walker, Franklin, Furbush, and Pryor for Upton. The Diamondbacks asked Upton if he'd be cool with that, and Upton was like, naw, what have I been telling you, have you even been listening, no wonder we're breaking up.
Out of the three-headed beast, Walker is the most hyped and the most highly regarded. He's the guy Mariners fans would've been least happy to surrender, and he's the guy with presumably the most value. Which isn't to say that Walker is necessarily separated from Danny Hultzen and James Paxton by leaps and bounds, but Walker's going to be highest on prospect lists, on account of his age and repertoire. He's the one who looks like a potential ace in the making.
So knowing that Walker was in there might make the proposal somewhat jarring. It's got to be jarring, too, for Walker himself, who's on Twitter and who's most certainly aware of what happened. Probably all of the players are aware by now of what happened. There's a certain amount of awkwardness between Upton and the Diamondbacks now, since Upton is still on the team even though he's apparently unwanted, but there could be awkwardness on the other side, too, since the four Mariners players were nearly non-Mariners, due to actions by the Mariners.
That's why it's somewhat unfortunate, for the players, to have all this information become public. If the Mariners had their druthers, the details of the package wouldn't have been leaked, but here we are, and the Mariners players know they were offered up to another team. Of course, they don't have to feel unwanted. They haven't been the subjects of non-stop trade rumors. It might even be neat to know that you were included in a trade for a guy with Justin Upton's talent. Maybe it's flattering. I don't think things are going to be icy now between the Mariners and these players; I think it just has to be a complicated feeling. All of those players have been reminded that this is a business, and business has only so much room for loyalty.
Another detail is that Upton has apparently made it repeatedly known that he wouldn't accept a trade to the Mariners. This isn't something he just decided on yesterday afternoon; this is something he's been telling the Diamondbacks for a while. We don't and can't know Upton's motivations, but what this suggests is that this isn't a simple leverage play. Upton might just be opposed to playing in Seattle, and maybe he can't be convinced otherwise. Even though the Mariners reportedly weren't on Upton's no-trade list a year ago, something changed, and here we are. Arizona was given multiple indications that a trade with Seattle would face a major roadblock.
So it might not be as simple as altering Upton's contract. Upton might have incredibly strong, rigid feelings. But there's another interpretation here. Maybe, the trade is dead, and Upton won't come to the Mariners. But the Diamondbacks were told that Upton wouldn't accept a trade to Seattle, and they attempted one anyway. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't have reason to believe that Upton's mind could be changed. And the Mariners, I'm sure, put countless hours of thought into drafting this proposal, so they're not about to give up without a fight.
Plenty of teams have been after Upton, and Arizona selected Seattle's offer because Seattle's offer would've been the strongest. Reports suggest the Rangers have moved on, having deemed the price too high, and the Braves don't seem interested in offering a comparable package of talent. It's unlikely Kevin Towers is going to find a better return, and he wouldn't have even engaged the Mariners in talks if he thought the talks would be futile. I mean, I guess it's possible, but it's not like Kevin Towers has been sitting on abundant free time. He's busy, and busy executives don't fuck around for no reason.
Maybe Towers misinterpreted things. Maybe the Diamondbacks thought there was a chance, even if there was no chance. Maybe they thought they were calling Upton's bluff. But I'm unconvinced this is completely over. Arizona had a killer offer, and they don't want Upton back. Upton doesn't want to go back, I'm guessing. The Mariners put everything they had into this pursuit. Right now, Upton might think he's holding out for a better destination, but if no better destination emerges, he could be left having to choose between Arizona and Seattle. He'd have to be really, really down on Seattle.
Which, I don't know, he might be. Or maybe another team comes through with a similar proposal and Upton goes to them. What we can be pretty certain of is that Justin Upton is going to be traded soon. What we can be absolutely certain of is that human beings change their minds. And what we can be absolutely certain of is that, to date, the Mariners have offered to the Diamondbacks the strongest collection of young talent. Maybe it's dead, but if you don't want to believe that it's dead, right now you don't have to.