The upside to Upton

Reports this morning that the Blue Jays have acquired outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from San Diego for class A pitching prospect Hansal Rodridguez immediately sparked questions about Jose Bautista’s future.  It’s a good opportunity to remind everyone he’s a “10-and-5” player (10 years MLB service, 5 with one team).  This means he can veto any trade.  So relax — your favourite bat-flipper isn’t going anywhere at the trade deadline.

However, the Blue Jays by acquiring Upton, who’s under contract through 2017, have added some insurance for themselves should Bautista and Michael Saunders walk away after 2016.   Upton provides other short-term and long-term advantages as well:

  • Power — he has 16 home runs this season in just 92 games, adding one more longball threat to an already potent offence
  • Speed – he has stolen 20 bases on 25 attempts this season, adding an extra dimension the Jays currently lack
  • Defence – he’s most certainly an upgrade defensively on either Saunders or Bautista, who have been slowed by injuries
  • Post-Season experience — Upton has a .260 batting average in four playoff series, including a trip to the World Series in 2008
  • Salary — reports suggest the Padres will pay down a significant amount of the $5.6 million Upton is owed this year and $16+ million owed in 2017.  However, that 2017 amount is likely to be close to the qualifying offer amount for upcoming free agents, so this move essentially controls costs in the event the Jays qualify Saunders and/or Bautista, and they end up walking away.
  • Lineup versatility – expect to see less of Justin Smoak and Ezequiel Carrera.  Upton can now spell Saunders or Bautista on any given day to rest them or allow them to DH, meaning more time for Edwin Encarnacion at first base.  After a solid start, Smoak is hitting just .208 over the last four weeks.  Also, Upton actually started his career at third base, so it would be interesting to see if the Jays would use him to spell Josh Donaldson, or continue to use Darwin Barney for that purpose.
  • Help against lefties – as Jon Morosi pointed out on MLB Network today, the Jays are only 15-16 and lefty starters this season, and Upton has a .900+ OPS against southpaws this season.

The Padres are in town for two more days, and another rumoured trade target, Andrew Cashner, is due to start tonight against the Jays.  Might be wise for the Jays to address their needs now, get into the market and get out before deadline desperation drives the prices out of their comfort level.  The fun’s just starting…