Rays could emerge as front-runners for Justin Upton

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The Rays may have an Upton in their lineup next season after all.

While B.J. Upton declined a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer earlier today and is expected to land a lucrative multi-year contract in free agency, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com hears from rival executives that the Rays might emerge as the front-runners to pull off a trade for his brother, Justin Upton.

This is obviously very preliminary chatter, but it’s thought that the Rays could be the best alternative for the Diamondbacks if the Rangers stand firm in their refusal to give up either Elvis Andrus or top prospect Jurickson Profar. Rosenthal notes that the Rays could offer either James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, giving Arizona a top-of-the-rotation talent. They could also offer prospect shortstop Hak-Ju Lee as part of a package, though it’s possible the Diamondbacks would have to part with additional talent to make it happen.

For what it’s worth, Rosenthal hears that some teams aren’t yet convinced that the Diamondbacks will move Upton this winter. That skepticism is probably warranted, as Kevin Towers shopped the talented outfielder during his first offseason as GM two years ago and ended up keeping him. But the rumor mill is alive and well.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.