Upton's choice puzzles weather watchers
It appears that Justin Upton would prefer to spend his summers in Phoenix rather than Seattle.It's Upton's life. It's Upton's career. It's Upton's choice. But those of us who have been in both Phoenix and Seattle in the summer are allowed a raised eyebrow. Or two. According to reliable reports, Upton rejected a proposed trade that would have taken him from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been seeking an impact bat, and they have some prime pitching prospects who make them attractive trading partners. Upton, 25, has a clause in his contract that allows him to block a trade to four teams, one of which is the Mariners. Upton apparently declined to waive that clause after Arizona and Seattle reached an agreement on a deal. Upton has three years and $38.5 million remaining on his contract with Arizona. He has been the center of trade speculation for some time. That speculation has only increased since the D-backs acquired free-agent outfielder Cody Ross. Arizona has an outfield surplus, with Ross, Upton, Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel and rookie Adam Eaton. The Mariners, meanwhile, earlier acquired first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales for pitcher Jason Vargas in a trade with the Angels. But they want and need to do more to bolster their lineup. A trade with Arizona, getting Upton for prospects, looked like a sensible move for both clubs. But apparently it didn't look so appealing to Upton. Observing the Phoenix/Seattle options from the outside, let this be said in an objective manner: Seattle has a truly delightful summer climate. Meanwhile, the average daily high temperature in Phoenix is 100 degrees or more in four consecutive months, June through September. And the trend on those temperatures is not moderating. Arizonans say, "But it's a dry heat." So is an oven, but you might not want to summer there, either. I'll admit, I'm thrilled to pieces to show up in the Valley of the Sun for Spring Training every year, and I have very good friends living there. But in the summer, the term "oppressive" comes readily to mind when contemplating the Arizona climate. In the winter, of course, you'd rather be in Arizona's climate. But that's not when baseball is being played. There is nothing wrong with the D-backs' park, Chase Field. Hey, the air conditioning works, so what else could matter? But the Mariners' Safeco Field is one of the top three or four ballparks in all of baseball. It's a gem. There's some cultural distance between Seattle and Phoenix, too, but anything I say on this topic risks understatement, so let's move on. Both of these organizations are in good baseball hands, with general manager Kevin Towers in Arizona and GM Jack Zduriencik in Seattle. Based on last season's results, the Mariners (75-87) have a little further to travel than the D-backs (81-81). Both of these clubs are in difficult, but not impossible, competitive situations. In the National League West, the D-backs are not only faced with the Giants, who have won two of the last three World Series, but now have the Dodgers taking over from the Yankees as the biggest spenders in baseball. In the American League West, the Mariners have to deal with a proven Rangers club, the A's -- who emerged to win the division last year -- and the Angels, who are also spending without apparent restriction. The AL West had the game's highest winning percentage last season. The addition of Houston could change that, but at least last place shouldn't be an option. Upton, meanwhile, has never been with another organization. He was the top pick in the 2005 Draft, and he was in the Majors little more than two years later. He has been with two division-winning teams in Arizona. The evidence suggests that he likes it well enough to stay. And the most recent evidence indicates that he has voted for Phoenix over Seattle at the first opportunity. We can all understand that in January, but in June, the edge will go in the other direction, and it won't be particularly close.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.