Padres Editorial: Is Retaining Justin Upton Possible?

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Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

The San Diego Padres overhauled their roster in time for the 2015 season and among the additions was slugging outfielder Justin Upton. He made a huge impact for the team and was the lone representative for the Padres in the 2015 all-star game.

When a team adds players like Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel to their roster, they instantly gain credibility. The Padres couldn’t find their groove on the field and ultimately were a huge disappointment to the fans last year. Upton was arguably the teams best hitters, all though he did have some bumps in the road.

Upton’s home/away splits are dead even in terms of at bats. He had 271 at bats in the 2015 season on the road and at home in Petco Park. His batting line was .277/.360/.506 at home while he hit .225/.312/.402 on the road. Strange as Petco is traditionally the ballpark hitters complain about.

He had absolutely no problem hitting here and the Padres should consider bringing in players that have the mentality of Upton’s. More often than not players psyche themselves out thinking they cannot hit at Petco. He had none of that and drove the ball to all fields without any complaints at all. It was nice to see a slugger hit here without any complaints about the dimensions or anything.

While Jason Heyward cashed in big with a Cubs contract in the excess of $180 million dollars and eight years, Upton and his contract negotiations have been relatively quiet. He and Heyward are close in terms of value. Heyward’s age and WAR numbers likely put his worth slightly above that of Upton’s. So Upton should expect a contract in the neighborhood of $150 million dollars if a team wants to aggressively pursue him.

Enter the Padres. The team will not and can not afford to pay him that much, but they could get aggressive if a couple of key factors take place. First off Upton would have to take a bit of a San Diego discount. Not at all out of the realm of possibility as long as Upton is comfortable with future of the organization. The other factor and the biggest factor is the money and the fact the Padres need to shed salary first.

Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

If the team were to rid themselves of Matt Kemp and James Shields without having to pay too much of their contract they could be in position to make a run at Justin Upton. Ironically enough, if the team could also shed his brothers salary (Melvin Upton Jr.) they would be in even better position to retain Justin Upton. Those three players are due $169.9 million over the next four seasons. That’s a ton of money that could help facilitate a reunion with J Up.

There is also the issue of the compensation pick. The Padres are certainly excited about obtaining a pick for Upton if he signs elsewhere. In resigning Upton the Padres would get no pick. Is the pick worth more than a player who has already performed at the major league level?

The market on Upton is sure to heat up at some point. He is too good a player and at the age of 28, he has the ability to get even better. At moments last year he looked absolutely dominant. That has always been the issue with Upton. He can carry your team for weeks on end, only to become ice-cold for an even longer stretch.

Last season in June and July, Upton had a batting line of .179/.260/.309 with six homer runs and 19 RBIs in 165 at bats. He also struck out 53 times in those two months. This after coming off a month of May where he had a batting line of .343/.418/.546 in 108 at bats. He also hit six home runs and drove in 23 runs that month.

When it is all said and done, the possibility of retaining Upton is minuscule. The Padres have surely washed their hands of the slugger and he will go down in Padres history with the names of Joe Carter, Reggie Sanders and George Hendricks. All were quality sluggers who only played one year in the Padres outfield. Losing Upton will be tough, but the Padres still remain confident that this franchise has a bright future.

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