In a story that has seemed inevitable since the Diamondbacks signed outfielder Cody Ross last week, Jon Heyman writes that Arizona outfielder Justin Upton is back "in play," although owner Ken Kendrick would have to be convinced by the front office to part with him.
The D-Backs now have Ross, Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and Adam Eaton all in the outfield mix, and Heyman says that Upton and Kubel are the two "prime candidates" to be dealt.
Although Upton is the player who would fetch the most in return, Kubel seems to me to be the more likely outfielder to be dealt. Kubel is a DH who is being asked to play the outfield in Arizona, and is owed $7.5 million for 2013. Kubel also has a $7.5 million option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
Kubel could be a decent DH option for the Rangers, but with both David Murphy and Mitch Moreland currently slated to be in the lineup, adding the lefty-hitting Kubel would present some matchup problems, as he has a career 691 OPS against LHPs, versus an 841 OPS against RHPs. Both Murphy and Moreland are best used in a platoon role, and it isn't realistic to have your LH, 1B and DH jobs all filled with platoons.
In any case, Kubel is probably a 1-2 win player as a DH, which means that he doesn't have much surplus value above what he's owed. I can't imagine that the D-Backs would be able to get more than a middling prospect for Kubel, whereas you have to figure that trading for Upton would cost the Rangers Mike Olt plus some other significant pieces.
And, of course, we have the same-old same-old in terms of what the D-Backs want for Upton, and the Rangers' unwillingness to meet the price:
All along, general manager Kevin Towers has suggested he'd trade Upton if he could get his future shortstop out of the deal, and while Towers already has acquired top shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius without surrendering Upton, there's a belief Towers would still trade Upton if Texas was willing to give up one of its two fine young shortstops, the proven Elvis Andrus or the superb prospect Jurickson Profar (though there's no indication the Rangers are about to relent on either of those two).
I have a hard time believing that the Rangers are just bluffing on Elvis. If the Rangers were willing to deal Elvis to land Upton, it seems like this deal would have already gone down. If they weren't willing to part with Elvis a few weeks ago to get Upton, it doesn't seem like they'd be willing to deal Elvis to get Upton now.