The Padres are telling other organizations that they are nearing a deal involving outfielder Melvin Upton, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). The report does note that it “may ultimately be posturing” on San Diego’s part, so perhaps it’s worth taking with a grain of salt, but regardless it seems that the club could be pushing for action on the veteran outfielder.
Upton, 31, has recently ranked in MLBTR’s listing of the top trade candidates despite his still-sizable contract. The reason is two-fold: first, he’s in the midst of a career revival since coming to San Diego, hitting a useful .259/.316/.441 since the start of 2015 while contributing on the bases in the field. And second, the Friars are perhaps the most motivated seller in all of baseball, having already traded away players with future control in James Shields and Drew Pomeranz (not to mention the winter deal involving Craig Kimbrel).
It’s tough to know exactly what buyer would be lined up for Upton, as he could theoretically fit in a number of roles. He’s certainly capable of playing center, though is probably best utilized in the corner outfield at this stage of his career, as defensive metrics generally view him as a slightly below-average option up the middle. And though he has been worthy of regular playing time, most teams will probably prefer to use him in a fourth-outfielder or platoon capacity. Upton continues to carry platoon splits (though not especially troubling ones), has benefited from a slightly elevated BABIP over the last two years, and continues to strike out in nearly three of ten plate appearances.
That leaves a reasonably wide variety of potential trade partners on the table. Clubs like the Giants, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Nationals, Indians, and Cardinals have all been rumored to have interest in some sort of outfield addition. Most of these organizations, if any actually have interest, would seem to be set up either to pair Upton with existing, left-handed-hitting options or deploy him as a frequently-used reserve.
The major question, perhaps, is how the money will get sorted. Upton’s big free agent contract — signed with the Braves and since traded to the Pads in the first deal involving Kimbrel — is winding down, but remains an obstacle. He is earning $15.45MM this year and $16.45MM in 2017, which still seems to go beyond his on-field value, though certainly the contract isn’t under water to anywhere near the extent it once was. San Diego may also be willing to keep some cash on its books in order to improve the return, depending upon the position of its trade partners.