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MLB trade rumors: Indians interested in Justin Upton

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians are interested in Braves outfielder Justin Upton, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who tweets that the Braves still haven't been given an offer they like, but have been in contact with the Tribe, along with the Royals, Rangers, and Padres. Sherman also notes that the Braves are looking for starting pitching and/or a second baseman.

Upton has not quite made good on the promise he showed as a 24-year-old MVP candidate in 2011, but he has continued to be a very good player, worth 3.9 WAR (FanGraphs) in 2014, when he posted a batting line of .270.342/.491, with 29 home runs and a wRC+ of 133.

Upton is 27 years old, and about to enter the final year of his current contract. He'll make $14.5 million in 2014. That's pretty close to the amount of money the Indians have available for 2015, if they're going to operate with the same sort of payroll they had this season.

The Braves recently traded Jason Heyward (another talented outfielder who is also a year away from free agency) to St. Louis for Shelby Miller (with some prospects also changing hands). The Braves have said Upton should have more value than Heyward, but Heyward has been the better player over the last couple years. In any case, a trade for Upton shouldn't look dramatically different than the one for Heyward. The closest match to Miller on the Indians is probably Trevor Bauer, another highly-touted prospect who had a modest 2014 season. Otherwise, Jose Ramirez could fill their second base need (they'd have pretty awesome defense up the middle with Ramirez and Andrelton Simmons), perhaps with a lower-level prospect also involved.

It should be noted that the Indians are on Upton's no-trade list, but that only means he would have to approve of a trade. There's no way of knowing right now if he would do that or not, but the Indians seem better positioned to contend in 2015, and Francona is a manger most players have probably heard good things about.

I would love to see the Indians acquire Upton, whom I've long been a fan of. In considering a fair offer, keep in mind that Upton till almost certainly receive and turn down a qualifying offer next offseason, so he brings a compensation pick for 2016 with him as well.