The 2015 season has been a surprise for most San Diego Padres fans. The anticipation of a winning season was high, but the team has struggled to play with any kind of consistency all season long. Reality has hit the San Diego Padres and their fans, the team is just not that good at the moment. Most would say they are terrible, but in fact the team is just built wrong. The nucleus is there, it just needs a little tweaking.
Justin Upton has shown that he has no fear of hitting in the spacious grounds at Petco Park. He has completely crushed the ball at home and in fact his offensive numbers are way better at home this season. Upton is hitting .301 with 15 home runs and 37 RBI’s at home this year compared to .212 with five homers and 27 RBI’s on the road. A huge difference for Upton as obviously hitting in a non traditional hitter park has no effect on him. If he could find those numbers on the road, he could be an MVP candidate.
As the trade deadline neared, it was evident the team was shopping Upton. He was rumored to be coveted by the Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs. It was obvious that just about every team still in the playoff race had some interest in Upton. It really seemed like his days as a Padres player, were numbered. A.J. Preller, being the man of mystery he is, held on to Upton and no trade was made. He will remain with the team for the whole 2015 season. His free agency this winter will be a huge news story in and around San Diego. Can the Padres afford him? Will they make an effort to retain him?
Justin Upton is in the prime of his career. At the age of 27, Upton has both the maturity and the youth to be successful for the next 5-7 years at the least. He figures to be looking for a deal in the five to seven-year range and will command at least $20 million per season. With that being said, Upton will get a contract anywhere from $100-120 million dollar range and up. That is a lot of money for a franchise that traditionally does not fork out that kind of salary on a single player.
The Padres have made a commitment to expand payroll and do what it takes to compete. However, Upton’s impending free agency will surely test their commitment. With Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr., Craig Kimbrel, Jedd Gyorko and James Shields all due a hefty sum in the next two to five years, the Padres will have to do some really creative spending to sign Justin Upton long-term.
Now lets discuss this move as far as what is right for the team. Justin Upton is a star in the prime of his career, but the problem is the Padres already have two other players who are essentially the same player. Wil Myers and Matt Kemp have so many similarities to Upton that the team has become unbalanced. Upton, Kemp and Myers are all corner outfielders with the same approach and result at the plate. They are all right handed hitters with power, a lower average and each strikes out far too much.
Don’t get me wrong. They are all great players, but unless Myers or Kemp can move to first base, the three of them together makes no sense long-term. Myers can play center field and do an adequate job, but with Kemp and Justin Upton being average at best defenders, the outfield range would struggle. The team cannot afford to have that trio roam the outfield if they wish to succeed. When this past off-season happened and the Padres obtained this trio, they did not take into consideration the balance and defense of the team. That has changed, as the Padres are more aware than ever before the team needs to adjust in order to succeed.
Another factor is young slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe and speedster Travis Jankowski. Renfroe is a corner outfielder and is listed as the Padres #1 prospect. After a slow start this season, Renfroe has picked it up of late. In his last 52 games in Double-A San Antonio, Renfroe has a batting line on .289/.335/.518 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI’s. He still needs more seasoning and ironically Renfroe is a right handed power hitter who strikes out too much and plays average defense. A common theme among the Padres outfield that desperately needs to be changed.
Jankowski is a defensive wizard in center field and could get a look by the Padres in September. He has excelled this season in both Double-A and Triple-A. Jankowski provides the top of the order presence the Padres need. He could very well be the Padres center fielder of the future. The 24-year-old speedster is hitting .402 in Triple-A in 92 at bats after getting promoted in July. In 374 total Minor League at bats this season Jankowski is hitting .337 with an on base percentage of .415 and 32 stolen bases. He could be something very special and the team will not rush his promotion.
So will the team make a run at signing Upton? The team will surely give him the qualifying offer (Around 1 year-$16 million) and with that, will gain a high draft pick if he is lost. The odds against signing him long-term are really low. The team would need to make some adjustments to its roster in order for this to happen. Factor in the huge cost of Upton and the likelihood seems minimal at best. Unless the team can move Matt Kemp, I frankly see no chance of signing him. With Matt Kemp’s cycle, he has endeared himself even more to Padres fans. Kemp’s contract alone will make dealing him difficult. The cycle could solidify him as a Padres player for the next four years.
The odds of Justin Upton playing for the Padres in the 2016 season are low, but Padres fans should not completely rule out the idea. Nothing ever surprises me when it comes to the Padres new general manager. He is capable of anything. He does have his work cut out for him if he and his staff intend to sign Upton and compete next season. Padres fans will just have to sit back and watch the show.