On Easter Sunday when the San Diego Padres acquired arguably the best closer in the game (Craig Kimbrel), they had to take on the contract of Melvin Upton Jr. The contract is not the most team friendly as Upton Jr has struggled to be consistent since signing the deal with the Atlanta Braves.
The Padres are on the hook for $31.9 million for the next two seasons of Upton Jr’s contract. With Matt Kemp and Wil Myers under team control for the next four seasons, and Travis Jankowski poised to start every day in center, Upton Jr. has no real place to play. Paying a #4 outfielder $16 million dollars to sit on the bench is ludicrous and the Padres will surely need to address this issue eventually.
The Padres are going to attempt to make a run at Melvin Upton Jr’s younger brother Justin Upton this off-season. The younger Upton is due for free agency and his price tag will surely be hefty. He is likely to get a contract in the excess of $100-120 million dollars. If the Padres were to re-sign Justin Upton, the team would be heavily invested in practically all of its outfielders.
Melvin Upton was rewarded after a 2012 season in Tampa Bay with a 5-year-$72.25 million dollar contract from the Braves. In 2012 for Tampa he hit 28 home runs and stole 31 bases. The Braves gave him a huge contract, and took no notice of Upton’s high strike out numbers or poor on base percentage. Immediately Upton Jr fizzled in a Braves uniform. He hit .198 as a Braves outfielder in two seasons with 21 homers and 61 runs batted in. In those 267 games in Atlanta, Melvin Upton Jr. struck out a ridiculous 324 times in 910 at bats.
He has improved on those numbers this season, but in all reality Upton Jr.’s contract was never really a “good contract”. The Braves paid way too much for his services after the 2012 season. The Padres are now responsible for his hefty deal and in order to rid themselves of his contract they will need to be extremely creative.
Padres General Manager A.J. Preller has shown a knack for being creative, and he will definitely need it to move Upton Jr. during the off-season. The Padres will need to pay off some of his salary to a potential team looking for outfield help. If they pay half of the $30+ million, it might be best for the team in the long run. Padres fans never want to see their team pay a players salary while he plays for another team, but this might be necessary. The Padres cannot afford to be strangled by his contract as well as attempting to find playing time for him.
The off-season for the Padres is going to be really busy. The team needs a few pieces here and there to compete. A.J. Preller will likely address the lack of shortstop as well as the need for left handed hitters in the lineup. The future is bright in Padresland, don’t let any of the National Media sway you. Their ignorance of the Padres shows when they speak of the team as a franchise in trouble. The philosophy of the team is changing and its natural for people to fear new things.
So what is his future with the team? It appears the team is determined to play Upton Jr when they can. He is swinging the bat decently right now and the team is desperately trying to boost his value. The future of Melvin Upton Jr is very much up in the air. If the team can find a buyer for him, they will move him in a heart beat. That remains to be seen if moving him is a possibility at all. His contract and most importantly his performance is not worthy of most teams time. The Padres will hope he finds whatever motivation he needs to be more consistent. In finding that Upton could easily be playing ball for another team next summer. The question is at what cost to the Padres?