Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
With Adam Eaton taking over for Chris Young in center, the Diamondbacks will have a decision to make this offseason.
It means something that the first Adam Eaton was traded for the first Chris Young, and that the new Adam Eaton took a job away from the new Chris Young. It's kind of like The Highlander -- this stuff will play out for generations. They'll be tall right-handed pitchers one generation, and speedy center fielders the next. Next up: bullpen catchers. We'll have no idea that it's happening.
The Diamondbacks have one of those good kinds of dilemmas, though. They have too many good outfielders. Your definition of good might vary, but they have at least five outfielders who could be credible starters around the league. The list:
Jason Kubel (L) - Strong bat, abysmal glove
Gerardo Parra (L) - Debatable bat, strong glove
Chris Young (R) - Poor-to-average bat, strong glove
Adam Eaton (L) - Unknown bat, strong glove
Justin Upton (R), - It's a mystery bat!, average glove
Are those blurbs oversimplifications? Yes. Yes, they are. But we could have an entire debate about Chris Young's potential (or lack thereof), or whether or not Jason Kubel is really as good a hitter as he's been for the Diamondbacks this season. The list up there is just to remind you the Diamondbacks have a varied group of complementary outfielders. They can mix and match, putting out strong defensive lineups, or plonking Kubel in a corner and hoping for the best.
But that probably isn't going to do them a lot of good in the long term. They'll probably need to flip at least one of these outfielders, if not a pair. They can get things in return that would be more valuable to them than overqualified fourth and fifth outfielders.
The obvious solution: Trade Chris Young, leave the rest alone. If the Diamondbacks are really impressed with Eaton -- and they should be -- it's an easy decision. Young is owed $10 million through 2013, or $19.5 million if his team picks up the option for 2014. Eaton will make close to the minimum for the next two seasons, at least. It's a little early to make a call on who's the better defender, but Eaton's no slouch:
That's a portfolio play, the kind you have your agent send out to get you written up in Variety. Everything about it is beautiful. Add in Eaton's offensive promise ...
... and it's not really a question. Yes, Reno plays like pre-humidor Coors with the fences moved in, but those are still wildly impressive numbers. Eaton starts, and if the Diamondbacks don't want one of the league's most expensive backups, Young should go. Eaton is already starting in center over Young, in case it couldn't be more obvious.
There are at least two other options for the Diamondbacks, though. The first is to sell high. That is, find a team that likes Kubel a little more than they should and see if they'll give up substantial value for him. He's still just 30, and he's signed for a relatively cheap $7.5 million, with a $7.5 million option for 2014. There would be a team that would bite on that, especially in the American League. It's moderately shocking Kubel hasn't played for the A's already.
The second option would be to sell low and trade Justin Upton. The difference between selling low on most players and selling low on Upton is that Upton would still bring back a bounty of prospects. They don't really have any holes on the roster other than a Willie Bloomquist-shaped one in the middle of the diamond. So if Upton could bring back a shortstop, perhaps the Diamondbacks would consider that and keep Young to start in right.
There has to be a way to make something work with Upton and Elvis Andrus, for instance. Though if I attempted to make something up, fans of both teams would yell at me.
The larger point stands: The Diamondbacks are the official Outfielder Store of the 2012/2013 offseason. Center fielders, left fielders, right fielders, lefties, righties, good contracts, bad contracts. It's an overstock sale! No reasonable offers will be refused!
There are teams who will be interested in some permutation of what the Diamondbacks will eventually offer. The only question is what the Diamondbacks want, and how much of their outfield corps they're willing to give up. It's not a bad spot to be in. Not bad at all.