Mariners try for Upton, who vetoes transaction

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comJanuary 11, 2013 

Justin Upton was traded to the Seattle Mariners, until he wasn’t. On Thursday, FoxSports.com reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Mariners had agreed upon a trade that would send the two-time All-Star outfielder to Seattle for a package of four prospects.

However, because the Mariners were one of four teams listed in Upton’s limited no-trade clause, he decided to veto the trade.

“I don’t have any comment on any trade rumors. That’s been our policy all along,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said via cellphone.

According to another report, from CBS Sports’ Scott Miller, the Diamondbacks could have taken up to four players – relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor, infield prospect Nick Franklin and one of the “Big Three” of right-hander Taijuan Walker, and left-handers James Paxton and Danny Hultzen.

That would be healthy compensation for Upton, who hit .280 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in 150 games in 2012. Upton is a two-time All-Star. In 2011, he hit .289 with 31 homers, 88 RBI and 21 stolen bases. However, he clashed with Diamondbacks manager Kurt Gibson last season, even being benched for a stretch of games.

Why would Upton veto the trade? It could be the Mariners’ struggles to win games the past few seasons or the spacious confines of Safeco Field, where it tends to be cool and damp.

But limited no-trade clauses are often used by players and agents as leverage. They designate teams they know might be interested but in which the players have no interest.

According to reports, the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Cubs are in Upton’s current no-trade clause. But teams have changed over the years.

Upton’s original no-trade teams were Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland, and last season, the Yankees and Red Sox.

If the Diamondbacks are interested in getting rid of Upton, he can use the no-trade clause to force a trade to a team such as the Texas Rangers or to the Atlanta Braves, where his free-agent brother, B.J., recently signed a five-year contract.

Are the Mariners completely out of the Upton deal? Maybe not. They could offer to remove the final year from the remaining three years of Upton’s contract and change it to a player option, thus giving him a chance at free agency a year earlier. It’s unlikely, but possible.

The Diamondbacks could also force Upton’s hand by saying they plan on using him only as a bench player and instead play recently signed Cody Ross, Adam Eaton and Jason Kubel in the outfield. But that’s even less likely.

If the window to Upton is truly closed, expect the Mariners to explore other possibilities in the coming days to add offense.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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