11:04pm: It seems that the O’s are next in line behind the Jays in the current pecking order, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter), with the Friars expected to make a final decision tomorrow.
8:57pm: The Blue Jays are considered the “front-runners” to acquire outfielder Melvin Upton from the Padres, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The 31-year-old has been a healthy scratch in each of the last two days as the team looks to secure a trade, though skipper Andy Green noted earlier today that “nothing’s done yet,” as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune was among those to tweet.
Both the Orioles and Indians remain in pursuit of Upton, according to Rosenthal, so indeed it seems that a deal isn’t quite complete. Prior reports had suggested that Baltimore was the likeliest landing spot, though, so it would appear that there has been some recent movement in the market as San Diego tries to find the best possible return for the resurgent veteran.
Toronto has been said to be seeking another outfielder to slot into the mix. As the Jays’ depth chart shows, the team currently features two left-handed-hitting options in Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera, along with righties in center fielder Kevin Pillar and right fielder Jose Bautista. The versatile Upton, who has spent plenty of time in left this year and up the middle in the past, would make a solid fit with the rest of the unit. He offers value on the field and on the bases to go with a bat that has been above-average since the start of 2015, though his ongoing strikeout proclivity remains a concern.
While Saunders is in the midst of a breakout campaign and has hit southpaws with aplomb in 2016, he does carry typical (but not drastic) platoon splits over his career. Pillar has not been as dynamic at the plate as might have been hoped this season, as he carries a .260/.290/.382 batting line. And the superstar Bautista is only just returning from a toe injury, with that malady only adding to the pre-existing reasons (advancing age and declining defensive metrics) to limit his exposure in the outfield.
It is not clear exactly how a deal might be structured between San Diego and Toronto. Upton is earning $15.45MM this year, with $16.45MM promised to him for 2016. Rumors of a potential swap with the O’s centered around an exchange of similarly-expensive contracts — righty Ubaldo Jimenez would apparently head out west in that scenario — with Baltimore giving added value in a prospect package.
There doesn’t appear to be a player on Toronto’s books that is analogous to Jimenez, though just-designated reliever Drew Storen — who’s owed $8.375MM this year — could represent an offset, and the Pads could simply hold onto whatever salary is needed to facilitate both teams’ interests. While the Jays opened the year right near their team-record payroll, they might also conceivably take on more of Upton’s salary to reduce the minor league assets needed to make a deal. That could be easier to do for the 2016 portion of the obligations, as the substantial salaries of Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and R.A. Dickey will all leave the balance sheet after the present season.
As with the Orioles, the Blue Jays have also been said to have engaged the Padres on starter Andrew Cashner. It certainly still seems plausible that he and Upton could be packaged, or that they could be moved in separate deals. Regardless of how things turn out, the righty’s own availability would seem likely to factor into these teams’ decisionmaking process regarding Upton.