Melvin Upton Jr. – the name doesn’t quite elicit the same level of interest as a Chris Sale, Jonathan Lucroy or Rich Hill. Melvin Upton Jr. isn’t the sexiest name on the market, but similar to getting socks for Christmas, Upton serves a purpose for the Blue Jays.
Upton isn’t a “dream acquisition” for the Blue Jays, but in a surprising development, Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this morning that the Toronto Blue Jays are on the brink of trading for Melvin Upton Jr.
There have been rumblings in recent days and weeks that the Jays were interested in the services of the Padres’ outfielder, but it sounds like this trade is all but done.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2016
It’s easy to forget about Upton; he’s flown under the radar as a decent outfielder playing on the west coast for a forgettable San Diego Padres team. In terms of outfielders, Melvin Upton Jr. is overshadowed at a position which has a slew of talented players on both sides of the ball.
Since 2015, Upton has amassed a respectable 3.1 WAR in two seasons with the Padres. That ranks him ahead the likes of Jay Bruce and former Blue Jay: Ben Revere. Interestingly enough, Melvin Upton Jr. has the exact same WAR as his brother Justin Upton since the start of 2015: 3.1 WAR.
Again, Upton’s name isn’t the most thrilling player on the trade market, but acquiring him from the Padres makes a lot of sense for the Blue Jays. And the more I think about it, the more I talk myself into this trade of Melvin Upton Jr.
First off, Melvin Upton Jr. would be an upgrade in right field over Jose Bautista – or even in left field over Michael Saunders. Upton is a centre fielder by trade, but he has the ability to shift over to either corner outfield position and would immediately be a defensive improvement over either of the Blue Jays’ existing options.
Secondly, acquiring the services of Melvin Upton Jr. would allow the Blue Jays to shift Jose Bautista into the designated hitter spot, keep Edwin Encarnacion at first base, and relegate Justin Smoak to bench duty. With a little bit of shuffling, it’s essentially replacing Justin Smoak with Melvin Upton Jr.
And lastly, trading for Upton provides the Blue Jays with a little bit of outfield insurance for the 2017 season as well. His contract goes through 2017 (at a somewhat staggering $16.5 million dollars), but he would provide the Blue Jays with at least one more outfielder, since Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista could potentially walk as free agents this offseason.
The clear and present need for the Blue Jays is pitching; either in the form of relief help and/or a starting pitcher. But getting Melvin Upton Jr. allows the Blue Jays to improve on their lethal lineup even further. It’s wouldn’t be an “all offense” approach, but it’s pretty close.
Depending on the acquisition cost (in the way of total dollars or prospects), I like Melvin Upton Jr. as an addition for the Blue Jays. I don’t love him, but I would prefer Melvin Upton Jr. over a Jay Bruce at this point. People often forget that Upton is still a respectable outfielder, while Bruce is on par with Bautista and Saunders in terms of defensive ability.
This year, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been adamant about restocking the Blue Jays’ farm system, so it wouldn’t make sense to give up one of the organization’s best prospects for a support cast member like Melvin Upton Jr.
And that’s exactly what Upton would be for the Blue Jays; not a pillar in the lineup, but a supporting cast member. Maybe not an everyday outfielder, and not necessarily a “fourth outfielder”, but more like a “third-and-a-half outfielder”.
With Upton’s hefty price tag, it could allow the Blue Jays to merely be on the hook for the bulk of the contract and only get away with giving up minimal in prospect capital to the Padres. If San Diego only kicks in small-to-moderate amount of cash and the Blue Jays have to send over a prospect or two, I’d do that deal in a heartbeat.
It’s true that Upton is a shell of his former self from his playing days with the Tampa Bay Rays, but as a 31 year-old outfielder, he still has some power and still possesses speed; two traits which are a welcome addition to the middle-to-bottom of the Blue Jays batting order.
A Melvin Upton Jr. trade might not move the needle all that much for the Blue Jays. He wouldn’t come in and have the same impact that Troy Tulowitzki or David Price had post-trade deadline last year. But even if Upton only moves the needle a little bit for the Blue Jays, it’ll be worth it.