The San Diego Padres are currently in Toronto for interleague play in Major League Baseball. Not only did the Blue Jays win the first game of their series, but Toronto also plundered the Padres outfield. On Tuesday the Jays traded a minor leaguer for outfielder Melvin Upton.
Upton, according to Spotrac, is signed through 2017. He has a base salary of $15,450,000 this season and an additional $16,450,000 contracted for next season. The left fielder will turn 32 years old later this summer.
His offensive stats so far this season are as follows: with 344 at-bats he is batting .256, he has an on-base percentage of .304, he is slugging .439, and he has an OPS of .743. Upton is a threat on the basepaths with 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts.
While his offensive stats are not amazing, it is important to note that he has played better away from San Diego this season when compared to his home games. Petco Park is considered to be one of the worst stadiums for hitters. For instance, SportingNews.com ranked the park dead last in their ballpark power rankings last year. Conversely, the Rogers Centre is known to be a good ballpark for hitters, and it ranked 2nd in the same power rankings.
I think Upton will likely enjoy better results at the plate for the balance of the season because most of his at-bats will now come in a better hitter’s park. Jays fans should probably be looking for an OPS of about .790 to .830 out of the leftfielder for the balance of the season. Furthermore, Upton has just two errors in 90 games this season.
The Jays now have the following outfielders additional to Upton:
Michael Saunders: .919 OPS
Jose Bautista: .816 OPS
Ezequiel Carrera: .726 OPS
Kevin Pillar: .686 OPS
You have to wonder if more moves are on the way for the Jays as they now have five outfielders for three positions. DH-ing one of them might be an option, however, Edwin Encarnacion is the current regular DH, and he is certainly not a weak point for the team, with 27 home runs already this season.
Looking at the situation, I would be looking at keeping Saunders for his offense and Pillar for his defense and base-running speed. Carrera isn’t a game breaker, however, he hardly hurts the team payroll. The way I’m looking at things is that the Jays either added some depth or they are going to do some big-time juggling soon. With the trade deadline less than a week away, a Jose Bautista trade might be imminent.
Bautista is a 35-year old player who is entering free agency at the end of this season. He recently returned from injury, but his season is below standard thus far. Currently, his OPS of .816 is the lowest that it has been since the 2009 season.
Trading Bautista, preferably to the National League from the Jays’ point of view, might seem like a cold-hearted move as Bautista has been the face of the Jays’ offense for years. Furthermore, he does seem to enjoy playing in Toronto. However, business decisions are often coldly calculated so I wouldn’t be surprised if Bautista was moved.
Conversely, the Jays could put Bautista in as the designated hitter, keep Encarnacion in the batting order by putting him at first base, and then look at trading or sitting Justin Smoak. The resulting batting order could look something like this:
1. Jose Bautista, DH
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
3. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
4. Michael Saunders, RF/LF
5. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
6. Melvin Upton Jr., RF/LF
7. Kevin Pillar, CF
8. Russell Martin, C
9. Devon Travis, 2B
I really don’t think you can have Bautista in the outfield in Upton’s place, given the latter player’s speed and lack of errors. Tuesday’s game will be interesting to watch as it sees Upton change dugouts mid-series. But at any rate, I don’t think that the Blue Jays are done when it comes to the trade scene.