Will Arizona trade Justin Upton?

The biggest question of Arizona's offseason will be whether to deal the talented Justin Upton. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals went crazy after clinching the NL East, the Detroit Tigers partied in Kansas City, and the Oakland Athletics sprayed champagne all over the place after wrapping up a playoff spot.

But all was quiet where Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers called from, in the last hours of the Diamondbacks' disappointing season. A year ago, Arizona came very close to playing for the NL championship, and this year they are among those who must watch others celebrate.

"Last year, we exceeded expectations," said Towers. "This year, we fell below them."

So Towers is like most baseball executives these days, planning adjustments, preparing for changes. Because of rotation struggles and injuries, three young pitchers -- Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs -- were pushed into the rotation, probably a little sooner than the team expected. Miley is among the leading candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year, Corbin and Skaggs have performed well, and Towers believes all three will be better for their experience. Arizona actually scored about as many runs as it did last season.

But the Diamondbacks ran the bases atrociously, and they have a clear need at shortstop and a glut of outfielders. There would seem to be almost no chance that the group of Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton will return intact. One or more of them is likely to be moved.

Rival executives believe that Young will be traded -- and in fact, some say that they think Arizona would have let Young go on waivers if he had been claimed in August. Young is set to make $8.5 million next year, and he has an $11 million option for 2014 (with a $1.5 million buyout, which means that he's guaranteed $10 million). He started well this season, but injuries limited him to 100 games, and in those he hit .231 with 14 homers and 79 strikeouts. At age 29, he is regarded as a good defensive outfielder; he ranked very well in FanGraphs' UZR/150.

But the most central question that hovers over the Diamondbacks has carried over from the trade deadline: Will they move Upton?

Towers has been on record as saying he will listen to offers on any players, and he leaves it at that. Some rival executives, however, sense that Towers is less likely to move Upton this winter than he might have been a year ago or even before the trade deadline for several reasons:

1. While there will be teams willing to give up good packages of prospects for Upton, it may be that nobody is going to surrender a deal worthy of a superstar-level player -- and that is how Upton's potential has generally been viewed early in his career. And now that Upton is about to get more expensive -- he'll make $9.75 million next year, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015 -- the offers will be mitigated by the pay increases.

2. Upton is coming off a subpar season where he hit .276 with 17 homers. Even if Arizona wanted to deal him, now would not be the best possible time.

3. Upton is just 25 years old, and there is always the concern -- if the D-backs were to trade him, it would be fear, really -- that he is going to blossom into a monster offensive player. Scouts who watched the Diamondbacks this year felt that Upton lost his way in his approach at the plate, taking too many pitches and getting himself into unfavorable counts, and they thought that too often, he clung to what he perceived to be wrong ball-strike calls by home plate umpires. In other words, they thought that if a call went against him on the first pitch of the at-bat, it would affect the rest of that at-bat and the at-bats that followed.

"That's not unusual," said one talent evaluator. "He's a young player. He's 25 years old. We all make mistakes at that age. Once he figures that out, I think he's going to come back and be a really great player."

The Diamondbacks have a nice core of young pitching, but Towers would like to add a veteran starting pitcher as well. These are things Arizona and other clubs will be thinking about, as meaningful games are played elsewhere in October.

For the readers: If you were running the Diamondbacks, would you trade Upton this offseason?


• The Nationals ended decades of baseball futility. Finally, they could pop champagne corks, writes Deron Snyder.

Stephen Strasburg savored the moment, as James Wagner wrote.

• Now that Oakland is in the playoffs, the Athletics might be even more dangerous, writes Tim Kawakami. They have made a believer out of Ron Washington, writes John Shea.

• The combined salaries for the players in the Boston lineup on Monday night were about $12.5 million, and there were five players in the Yankees' lineup who make more than that by themselves. This all says a lot about the Boston Red Sox's demise this year after opening the season with the second-highest payroll in the majors, and the New York Yankees flat-out embarrassed Boston with a nine-run, four-homer second inning. The Yankees lead the AL East by a game.

CC Sabathia was again dominant, completing eight innings. In his past three starts, he has allowed four earned runs in 24 innings with 28 strikeouts, partly because of how he is using his changeup -- a pitch that has confounded him for a lot of this season.

"I think it's just a matter of throwing it more," he said after the game.

The numbers bear that out. From ESPN Stats & Information, how Sabathia beat Boston:

A) With nine righties in the lineup, Sabathia threw 32 changeups, his most since joining the Yankees in 2009. Red Sox hitters were 0-for-8 Monday in at-bats ending with a Sabathia changeup.

B) Seven of the eight outs Sabathia recorded on his changeup came before two strikes. All eight outs he recorded on his slider came with two strikes.

C) Six of Sabathia's seven strikeouts Monday came on his slider. It's his 11th start this season with six-plus strikeouts on his slider, three more than any other starter in baseball (Edwin Jackson is second with eight).

Ken Davidoff thought it made no sense that the Yankees left Sabathia in the game to pitch eight innings. I think Sabathia's outing was so easy, so stress-free, that they figured they'd leave him in to reach the 200-inning benchmark. (Joe Girardi and Sabathia both said they had no awareness of the milestone, which, for rotation anchors like Sabathia, is a benchmark for durability. Pitchers like hitting 200 innings for the same reason that elite runners finish marathons even when they don't win.)

Mark Teixeira is back in their lineup, and the Yankees are at full strength again, writes Joel Sherman.

The Red Sox are not putting up a fight, writes John Harper. Dustin Pedroia has a broken finger, writes Peter Abraham.

• Some unearned runs took down the Baltimore Orioles.

• The Rangers' lead is down to one game.

• The Tampa Bay Rays won but were eliminated. The Los Angeles Angels are out, at the end of a season that began with great expectations.

Other unresolved playoff issues today:

1. The seeding in the American League, with the Yankees, Rangers, Athletics and Orioles now all within a game of each other.

2. The winner of the AL East.

3. The second NL wild-card spot.

4. The No. 1 seed in the NL.

• The Cardinals' magic number for clinching a playoff berth is down to one after their victory against the Reds; Jaime Garcia threw well. Matt Holliday is playing with some nagging injuries.

• Among all teams, I think the Atlanta Braves have the most to lose with the new wild-card format. They've had an excellent season and have posted one of the best records in the sport. But Washington won the NL East, which means that Atlanta's postseason might last just one game. The Braves lost on Tuesday.

• With the Tigers and Giants getting into the postseason, and the Angels being knocked out, the guess here is that Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey will win the MVP award for their respective leagues. Torii Hunter says he would vote for Adrian Beltre and not for Mike Trout.

Cabrera is closing in on history, as Tom Gage writes.

From ESPN Stats & Info: The last player to win the Triple Crown while having sole possession of first in each of the three categories was Frank Robinson of the Orioles in 1966. Cabrera currently is first in batting average (.329), homers (44) and RBIs (137).

Cabrera's 44 home runs are tied for fourth on the Tigers' all-time single-season list. Hank Greenberg is first with 58 (in 1938).

Active players with 40 homers, 200 hits in a single season

Alex Rodriguez: 1998, 2001

Miguel Cabrera: 2012

Adrian Beltre: 2004

Albert Pujols: 2003

Todd Helton: 2000

David Price thinks he's worthy of the AL Cy Young award. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 28 of his 31 starts.

• Dusty Baker is back with the Reds and says he feels truly blessed.

Playoff injuries and moves

1. This is why a lot of folks would prefer to be the No. 3 seed: The Tigers know when and where they will start the playoffs.

2. Max Scherzer may pitch a little Wednesday, writes John Lowe.

3. Nick Markakis suffered a setback.

4. As David O'Brien writes within this notebook, Kris Medlen will start the wild-card game for the Braves.

5. Brandon Phillips says he's OK, and within the same John Fay notebook, there is word that Ryan Ludwick is being eased back into the lineup.

6. Brett Anderson will be a very interesting wild card for the Athletics, as they set their rotation for the wild-card game, because they know this about him: When he's healthy enough to pitch, he pitches pretty well. A.J. Griffin is another possibility, but he may be needed in the series finale against Texas if Oakland wins tonight.

7. Matt Cain will start Game 1 of the playoffs in San Francisco.

8. Buster Posey left Monday's game with back spasms.

Dings and dents

1. Jimmy Rollins probably won't play again this year.

2. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are probably done for the year, writes Bob Dutton.

3. Troy Tulowitzki is done.

4. C.J. Wilson is going to have surgery.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Bobby Valentine says it's not true that his players don't like him.

2. Darren Oliver seems to be leaning toward retirement.

NL East

• The Phillies won, and the other team celebrated.

NL Central

Jeff Locke made his final 2012 pitch for the 2013 rotation.

Lucas Harrell, a pitcher whom scouts love, shut down the Chicago Cubs in his last start of the year.

• For the 100th time this season, the Cubs lost. Tickets for the Cubs and Astros games are going for less than $1.

• The Milwaukee Brewers picked up their 82nd victory. Pretty amazing, actually -- and it makes you wonder what they could've accomplished with even an average performance from their bullpen.

NL West

Miguel Montero is striving to improve.

• The Rockies avoided their first-ever 100-loss season.

Chase Headley has put up some amazing numbers.

• It's going to be a different type of offseason for the Padres' Andrew Werner.

AL East

Ryan Lavarnway is a work in progress.

• John Farrell was ejected in the middle of the Jays' win.

AL Central

• The Chicago White Sox were eliminated. Their offense simply dried up down the stretch. Jake Peavy hopes his days with the White Sox aren't over.

• The Cleveland Indians were wrecked. Sandy Alomar Jr. covets the chance he has been given.

• The Minnesota Twins, fighting to avoid last place, lost in extra innings, and Joe Mauer fell to seven points behind Miguel Cabrera in the race for the AL batting title.

AL West

Felix Hernandez was hit hard in his final start of the year.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats & Info

4: Hits for Trout and Cabrera. The first time this season that they both had a four-hit game on the same day.

3: Seasons of 30 home runs and 50 doubles for Pujols. He is the first player in MLB history with 30-50 in three seasons.

1,950: Career RBIs for Alex Rodriguez, tied with Stan Musial for fifth on the all-time list.

Other stuff

• The Marlins' attendance in the first year of their new ballpark was good but much lower than in other cities.

• MLB is investigating a slur that appeared on Derek Holland's timeline.

• As part of his on-going series, La Velle Neal writes that the Twins' prospects aren't ready yet.

• When Adam Greenberg hits tonight, there will an interested observer. Greenberg won't start tonight's game, as Juan Rodriguez writes.

• Another abuse lawsuit has been filed against a former Red Sox clubhouse man.

And today will be better than yesterday.