November 7th, 2012

Let the Justin Upton rumors begin anew

Those on-again, off-again trade rumors regarding Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton are on again, this time with Arizona GM talking with reporters about it at baseball’s GM meetings. He’s telling reporters they aren’t shopping Upton, according to reports, but they’re listening. This time, maybe the Tigers have a better reason (and a better case) to try for him than they did before.

Nick Piecoro, who covers the Diamondbacks for the Arizona Republic, reports Towers saying there’s “a lot of interest” in Upton. He also relays word on twitter that the Tigers were doing their “due diligence” and “background work” on Upton, though it isn’t clear whether the two sides have had any talks.

On the surface, there’s a fit for Upton in Detroit. The Tigers are looking for an upgrade in one of their corner outfield spots, they’d like to have another right-handed hitter to improve their lineup against left-handed pitchers, and they’d like to add some athleticism to their offense. Upton, who has posted at least 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases in each of the last four seasons, fits the mold. He’s just 25 years old and he has still has three years before he’s eligible for free agency.

Those same reasons why Upton would appeal to Detroit, of course, are reasons for him to appeal to a lot of teams. They’re prime reasons why Towers would listen on him, because he can demand a lot in return and still shed a contract that will pay Upton $38.5 million over the next three seasons.

It’s not hard to see how Upton would fit in Detroit. It’s how the Tigers would obtain him that’s the tricky part. They have talent they can offer, but it’s whether they have better talent to offer than other clubs (remember how many clubs are reportedly looking for outfield help, including the Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox) do.

Whether the Tigers have a lot to offer depends on how untouchable their minor-league prospects are. It would be a shock if Arizona didn’t ask for Nick Castellanos as part of a package in return, given the look of their lineup. Avisail Garcia could be another prospect of interest coming off his impressive postseason. Detroit’s sudden drop in top pitching prospects could be a factor unless the Tigers could be a factor, though the Tigers will have six candidates for five rotation spots (with Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly at the end) if they re-sign Anibal Sanchez.

Re-signing Sanchez and trading for Upton brings the team payroll to an unprecedented (for this club) level. It would also be a rare win-now move that would actually not make the team any older.

Cabrera, Verlander named finalists for AL awards

Justin Verlander won’t get a chance to repeat for American League MVP, but Miguel Cabrera will get his chance to keep the award in Detroit. Verlander will settle for a shot at another AL Cy Young award.

MLB Network announced the finalists for baseball’s major end-of-season awards Wednesday night, and to no surprise, Cabrera and Verlander were in the middle of them. Cabrera was announced as one of five finalists for AL MVP, while Verlander was named among the three finalists for Cy Young.

Neither was a surprise, though Verlander actually wasn’t among the three finalists for AL Outstanding Pitcher honor at last week’s Players Choice awards. Unless you spent the last three months outside the country, you know that the AL MVP debate basically an argument over Cabrera’s Triple Crown and Mike Trout’s strength in metrics. The other three MVP finalists announced were Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Cy Young field is more open. Verlander’s 17 wins marked his lowest total since 2008, but he again led the league in innings and strikeouts while ranking second in ERA. He again led all AL pitchers in Wins Above Replacement. Whether that’s enough to put him on top 0f a field that includes 20-game winners David Price (also the ERA champ) and Jered Weaver is difficult to answer.

The Cy Young award winner will be announced next Wednesday at 6 p.m., also on MLB Network. The league MVP honors will be announced the next night.

Delmon Young pleads guilty in New York

The legal case against former Tiger Delmon Young reached its expected settlement. Young pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment today and was ordered to 10 days of community service, including reportedly a program at New York City’s Museum of Tolerance.

If he completes the program, he’ll be able to plead down to a lesser charge.

The case, of course, stems from his April 27 incident outside the Tigers’ team hotel in the city, where Young reportedly started yelling at a homeless man and got into a resulting altercation with a group of visitors.

It was a national story, and the initial charges included a hate-crime accusation that made the potential penalties stronger. Young stayed away from the team during their entire series against the Yankees over the next few days, and was eventually suspended by Major League Baseball for seven days.

Young, whom a police report said was highly intoxicated when the incident happened — despite the team not arriving in New York until maybe four hours earlier — agreed to an alcohol counseling program and underwent a community service program.

Young eventually turned his season around on the field, including another strong postseason, and the off-field issues amazingly didn’t become a bigger story when the Tigers went back to New York to face the Yankees in the ALCS. Off the field, not surprisingly, the damage to his image was another issue.

He’s a free agent now, and for someone coming off back-to-back productive Octobers, he’s going to have to deal with the character question. His plea deal should help.