<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Justin Upton

Mariners, Diamondbacks discuss Justin Upton

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CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners and Diamondbacks met tonight to discuss Justin Upton.

Heyman’s report is just a tweet, so there are no details on the meeting. Heyman does, however, speculate on whether an offer of top prospect Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin might be enough get a deal done.

Such a package would certainly intrigue the Diamondbacks, who seem to have their hearts set on acquiring a long-term shortstop for Upton. Franklin isn’t a can’t-miss guy, but he is one of the better shortstop prospects in the minors. He hit .322/.394/.502 in 205 at-bats in Double-A and .243/.310/.416 in 267 at-bats in Triple-A as a 21-year-old last season. He also batted .338/.422/.519 in the offense-heavy Arizona Fall League.

Walker, 20, is regarded as one of the game’s best pitching prospects, though he didn’t excel statistically last season. As one of the youngest players in the Southern League, he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and a 118/50 K/BB ratio in 126 2/3 innings for Double-A Jacksonville.

Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are two other top pitching prospects the Mariners probably discussed with the Diamondbacks.

Upton, 25, is perhaps the most intriguing trade property out there right now, even though he’s coming off a down year in which he hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 homers in 554 at-bats. He’d be a terrific foundation piece for the Mariners’ rebuilding efforts. Adding him would give the team a 2013 lineup that looks something like this:

2B Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
RF Justin Upton
C/DH John Jaso
1B Justin Smoak
DH/C Jesus Montero
LF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Brendan Ryan

A look at the future of Shane Victorino

Shane Victorino
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Earlier today I tried taking a gander at Angel Pagan’s fate by looking at what some similar players did after age 31. I created a list of players who had OPSs between .720-.780, no more than 50 homers and at least 50 steals from ages 28-30 (Pagan had a .749 OPS, 26 HR and 98 SB during those three seasons).

Not making that list of comparables was Shane Victorino. He was a bit too good from 2009-11, his age 28-30 seasons, finishing those years with an .800 OPS. However, after a down 2012 season, Victorino would have fit perfectly in the Pagan range there for his age 29-31 seasons. Victorino has a .766 OPS, 46 homers and 92 steals the last three years.

So, I’ve decided to create a similar list for Victorino. This one won’t be quite as long as Pagan’s. Besides Victorino, there are nine center fielders in history to post OPSs from .730-.800, hit between 20-60 homers and steal at least 50 bases from 29-31. One was Alex Rios, who happens to be the same age as Victorino, so he doesn’t tell us anything. Here’s what the other eight did from 32 onward:

Cesar Cedeno: .263/.320/.401, 99 OPS+ in 1,086 AB
Willie Davis: .283/.312/.422, 106 OPS+ in 2,893 AB
Marquis Grissom: .266/.303/.422, 87 OPS+ in 3,275 AB
Stan Javier: .284/.362/.384, 99 OPS+ in 2,151 AB
Ron LeFlore: .263/.326/.353, 92+ OPS in 1,192 AB
Mickey Rivers: .287/.314/.366, 93 OPS+ in 1,089 AB
Devon White: .273/.333/.432, 100 OPS+ in 2,829 AB
Mookie Wilson: .264/.299/.364, 87 OPS+ in 1,694 AB

So, of the eight players most similar to Victorino, Davis, Javier and White lasted as quality regulars after 32. Javier was actually rarely a regular before turning 30, but he ended up being a much better old player than a young one. LaFlore might have lasted as a regular too if not for his cocaine problem.

Personally, I’d be too scared off by Victorino’s decline in 2012 to give him a three-year deal. My suspicion is that he could well be a fourth outfielder come 2014 or ’15. Still, it’s worth noting players like him haven’t aged that badly. Speed oftentimes does age better than power, which is one of the factors in Victorino’s favor.

Cubs tell Carlos Marmol that he’s on the block

Carlos Marmol
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Carlos Marmol appeared pretty excited last month upon learning he was being traded to the Angels for Dan Haren, only to see the deal fall through because of medical concerns about Haren’s hip. Still a Cub, Marmol has been told he is a trade candidate, but that the team won’t “give him away,” reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Marmol is owed $9.8 million next season in the final year of his deal. It’d be a high price to pay for an inconsistent closer, but the Cubs would likely be willing to absorb some of that cash if it meant getting a legitimate prospect in return.

If the Cubs do trade Marmol, then newly signed Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa will likely take over closing duties. He could steal the job away from Marmol regardless. While Marmol did put together a nice second half in 2012, he hasn’t been lights out since 2010.

Despite plenty of interest, Astros plan to keep Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, Daniel Descalso
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The Astros don’t have many building blocks, but it seems they view shortstop Jed Lowrie as one of them. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that they’re planning to hold on to him, even though several teams have asked about him.

Lowrie played like an All-Star in the first half of last season, only to get injured and fade later. He ended up batting .244/.331/.438with 16 homers in 340 at-bats.

Unfortunately, injuries have been the story of Lowrie’s career thus far, which is a big reason why the Red Sox were willing to trade him to Houston for Mark Melancon last winter. Lowrie turns 29 in April, but he’s yet to play in 100 games in a big-league season. Overall, he’s hit .250/.326/.417 in 1,148 at-bats.

Grady Sizemore had another knee surgery, out until midseason

Grady Sizemore
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Free agent Grady Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September, his agent told MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince on Monday, and he’s expected to be sidelined for at least the first half of next season.

Sizemore already underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010. The latest procedure would seem to bode particularly ill for his chances of re-emerging as a starting outfielder in the majors.

Sizemore dealt with right knee pain throughout the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and he considered microfracture surgery a year ago before deciding on a less intense procedure that did him little good. He never played a game for the Indians after they re-signed him to a one-year, $5 million contract last winter.

The 30-year-old Sizemore was one of the American League’s best players from 2005-08 before dealing with injuries. He played in 106 games in 2009, 33 in 2010 and 71 in 2011 before missing last season.