D-backs GM Kevin Towers Talks Upton Trade

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin Justin Upton

On Thursday, we broke down the seven-player trade that sent Justin Upton from Arizona to the Atlanta Braves.

Later that day, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers held a conference call with reporters. Some key highlights:

Asked if Justin Upton is an elite player

Towers said Upton is “a very good player, with the potential to be a superstar. Sometimes to be a superstar you have to be willing to pay the price and become that player.” He added that such progress was probably going to be difficult in Arizona, because Upton came up to the big leagues as a 19-year-old, became the face of the organization, and thus had expectations set very high from day one. When the team struggles, Towers said, the perception is that it’s Upton’s fault. “Going to Atlanta, where they have several star players and he’s not the face of the organization, he’s got a chance to blend in. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does well. He has a chance to become that elite player.”

Asked if the Diamondbacks preferred grinding, gritty players

Towers replied, “That’s accurate. That’s the way [manager Kirk Gibson] played the game. That’s how we won in 2011, and Justin was part of that club.” Towers lauded Martin Prado as having that kind of mentality, grinding out at-bats and not striking out. He added, “Justin played hard every single day,” and “he cared, he’s a competitor.” But because he had a bit of a “swagger,” and because of his general body language, people might have perceived him differently.

Asked if the Diamondbacks felt they had to trade Upton after months of rumors and the recent failed trade with the Mariners

Towers said they did not feel that way. “We were prepared 48 hours ago for him to be our right fielder.” The Braves adding two players to the deal who weren’t in it before was what persuaded Arizona to pull the trigger.

Asked if this deal trumps the one Arizona had struck with the Mariners

Towers said, “Only time will tell.” The difference in this case, he said, was that the D-backs got a proven player in this one. “Both were good deals. The other one was more prospect-driven.”

Asked if the prospect of signing Martin Prado to a contract extension factored into the decision

Towers said, “We were going to do the deal anyway.” After he learned that the Braves had discussions last month with Prado about a possible extension, Towers decided to pursue the issue with Prado’s agent, Peter Greenberg. And now, he said, the Diamondbacks are “cautiously optimistic we’ll have him beyond this year.”

Filed Under: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, MLB

Jonah Keri is a staff writer for Grantland. His book The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First is a New York Times best seller. The paperback edition of his new book, Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available.

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