Diamondbacks “listening” to offers for Justin Upton, but “need to be blown away”

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Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Diamondbacks are “listening” to offers on Justin Upton, but “need to be blown away” in order to actually trade the 23-year-old right fielder.

I’m not exactly sure why a rebuilding team like the Diamondbacks would be even remotely interested in trading one of the best young players in baseball, but other teams should absolutely be trying to put together offers that lead to Kevin Towers being “blown away.”

Upton took a step backward this season after a huge 2009, but still hit .273 with 17 homers, 18 steals, and an .800 OPS in 133 games as a 22-year-old. He’s a very good defensive right fielder with speed and power who’s signed through 2015 at reasonable prices and very few hitters in baseball history have been as productive as Upton through age 22.

In fact, here’s the complete list of all the players in the past 50 years to get at least 1,500 appearances through age 22 and post a higher OPS than Upton: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, Cesar Cedeno.

That’s it. That’s the whole list. And filling out the rest of the top 10, directly behind Upton on the list, are Johnny Bench, Andruw Jones, and Rickey Henderson. Given his age, tools, production, and contract Upton is likely one of the dozen or so most valuable commodities in baseball right now. If your favorite team’s GM isn’t trying to pry him away from the Diamondbacks, he’s not doing his job.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.