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Upton blockbuster potential fades for D-backs

PHOENIX -- During last week's Winter Meetings, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers expounded on the art of pulling off three-or-more-team trades.

"It's hard," Towers said. "I would say that sometimes there's two teams that are comfortable, two that aren't quite so comfortable. Sometimes it's three that are very comfortable. What's hard is when three feel pretty good about all the pieces and one that doesn't feel quite so good, and that kills the deal."

There was plenty of talk last week about a blockbuster trade that would have involved D-backs outfielder Justin Upton and another three, or possibly four, teams.

It's uncertain how close that deal came to being a reality, but one thing is known -- a pitcher the D-backs really liked and who was rumored to be in that deal is now off the board.

The Rays and Royals, two of the teams mentioned in various blockbuster trade scenarios, went ahead and made their own deal Sunday.

Kansas City picked up pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay in a six-player trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers and three others to the Rays.

The deal is noteworthy for D-backs fans because not only were those two of the teams mentioned in Upton trade talks, but Shields has been a top target for the D-backs for the past two seasons, but they were unwilling to trade a slew of prospects for him, like they did for Dan Haren five years ago.

With Shields off the board, it appears that the Rangers and D-backs are lacking additional partners to get involved in a blockbuster.

That seems to increase the odds that Upton is going to be staying in Arizona.

The Rangers, though, could change that, because they clearly want Upton.

By the same token, it's no secret that the D-backs covet Texas shortstops Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, and they want one of them back in a deal for Upton. To this point, though, the Rangers have refused to part with either.

Texas lost out on top pitching target Zack Greinke, and if the Rangers fail to re-sign outfielder Josh Hamilton, maybe their thinking changes.

If anything, the D-backs feel the signings during the Winter Meetings give them even more leverage. With outfielders like Shane Victorino signing for three years and $39 million and Angel Pagan getting $40 million over four years, Upton seems like a bargain with three years and $38.5 million left on his deal.

Plus, the D-backs don't have to part with Upton, so they can sit back and wait for a team to get desperate and overpay -- and if they don't, then Upton will be in the No. 3 spot in the lineup come Opening Day 2013.

Even if Upton is not moved, the D-backs could still deal an outfielder.

Arizona would like to free up more playing time for outfielder Gerardo Parra, and it has talked to teams about deals involving veteran Jason Kubel. Cincinnati was one possible destination for Kubel, but the Reds appear to be out now that they re-signed Ryan Ludwick.

The D-backs are looking to upgrade their shortstop situation and have talked to the Indians about Asdrubal Cabrera. Cleveland, though, is asking for a lot for Cabrera, who is under contract for the next two years at $16.5 million.

A deal for Cabrera would not cost the D-backs Upton, but it would cost them prospects -- specifically, pitching prospects. While the D-backs might consider dealing 2011 first-rounder Trevor Bauer, they would be hesitant to part with left-hander Tyler Skaggs, and with the Indians seeking multiple prospects, Arizona might decide it is better off hanging onto its pitching inventory and going with the status quo at short.

All in all, the D-backs are in a good position. Having filled their glaring needs last week -- a veteran pitcher in the form of Brandon McCarthy and bench help in Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske -- they could stand pat at this point and feel pretty good about their team.

"If we had to start the season where we are right now, we're fine," Towers said. "If a deal is presented to us involving another outfielder or some of our pitching, we're in a better position where we've got depth now."

Arizona Diamondbacks, Justin Upton