Add the Pittsburgh Pirates to the list of teams that have potential interest in Justin Upton of the San Diego Padres. The Pirates have contacted the Padres regarding Upton and with the loss of Jordy Mercer, also have interest in Clint Barmes or Alexi Amarista as well. Mercer was taken out attempting to tag the Milwaukee Brewers Carlos Gomez. Gomez slid hard into Mercer and he is out six to eight weeks with a knee injury. Barmes a former Pirate would be a great fit for the club.
Wait a minute? This whole season the Padres have been in search of a shortstop, would they really deal one at this point? The answer is yes, A.J. Preller has already shown a propensity for multiple transactions so if the Padres were to acquire a shortstop from someone else, both Amarista and Barmes most easily be deemed expendable.
The Pirates could surely use Justin Upton in their lineup, however their outfield is already a bit crowded. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco are all outfielders and each is a starter. If the Pirates were to deal for Upton, where would he play? Would the team move Polanco to first base? Would the Pirates move Polanco to the Padres for Upton and a couple more players? Who knows. Polanco is probably untouchable, but Preller has that type of devotion to making this Padres team better.
The Pittsburg farm system is loaded and a great match for the Padres. It remains to be seen if the Pirates could really use Upton with their excess of young outfielders. The Pirates could surely use a starting pitcher so Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and James Shields would all interest the team. If the Padres decide to sell, the Pirates could easily upgrade their team at the cost of prospects.
The Pirates have a solid group of minor league prospects and a few of them are position players that will surely interest the Padres. Austin Meadows is first on the list. The left-handed hitting center fielder is 20 years old and is currently in high A ball in Bradenton Florida. He is currently hitting .300 with three home runs and 28 RBI’s. A .368 on base percentage and 15 stolen bases are a very nice asset for the young outfielder.
Meadows is a couple of years from being able to perform at the Major League level, but he has a very nice swing and a bright future. He was the clubs first round pick in the 2013 draft (9th overall). He would not be cheap and the Pirates probably would prefer to hold on to the promising youth. Meadows is as an excellent fielder with exceptional range on the field. His arm is listed as average at best, so his future in center could be in doubt in the long run. If has a proper work ethic he could easily develop more strength in his arm.
Josh Bell is another intriguing prospect in the Pirates farm system. The 22-year-old switch hitter is described as a mature player and could easily be in the Major Leagues very soon. He has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate and consistently makes solid contact. Bell was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft and is currently playing for the Altoona Curve, the Pirates Double-A affiliate. Bell is hitting .315 with four home runs and 55 RBI’s with a .388 on base percentage in 95 games.
When he was drafted it was as a corner outfielder, but with the Pirates loaded youth in the outfield he was recently switched to first base. Bell has had trouble adjusting to the move at first, and might just be a better fit for another organization. He projects to develop power and being that he is a switch hitter, Bell will have every opportunity to play everyday in the Major Leagues. The upside of Bell is very high and the Padres could use his left-handed bat eventually in the lineup. He does project as a corner outfielder, and that might not be what the Padres seek being that the team has Matt Kemp and Wil Myers on the team and Rymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe in the minors.
The next potential player is Alen Hanson. The young second baseman/shortstop is blocked by Mr. All Pittsburgh Neil Walker. Hanson is nearly Major League ready but appears to be without a position. Neil Walker is not going anywhere anytime soon. The team also has Josh Harrison who could play second base for the team. The young Dominican infielder has a line drive bat from both sides of the plate and has excellent speed to boot.
Hanson is currently in Triple-A Indianapolis where he is hitting .283 with five home runs and 38 RBI’s with 25 stolen bases in 79 games. Very solid numbers for a league that is not known as a hitters league. Hanson has the ability to play shortstop and has excellent range there. However his arm might not be able to handle the position for the long-term. Most scouts have him projected as a second baseman. He would be a solid prospect for the Padres and would probably get an immediate look at an infield spot for the team.
JaCoby Jones also would interest the Padres, all though his makeup being a power hitting right handed hitter that strike out too much, is not the best fit for the team. Jones is listed as a shortstop and outfielder, but he looks to be an outfielder for sure. He has some awful numbers at shortstop defensively quite frankly. His impressive bat speed translate into a legit power hitter. However his 107 strikeouts this season (High A-Ball) in 360 at bats is atrocious. Especially when you consider he has just hit 10 home runs and is just hitting .261 on the season. Jones clearly has work to do with his swing, but at the age of 23 he has time on his side.
A few other names to keep an eye on are left-handed pitchers Cody Dickson and Stephen Tarpley. Dickson is currently in High-A Ball and has a 9-5 record with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He has 67 strike outs in 97 innings and 19 games started. He has a mid 90’s fastball but needs to refine his other pitches and be more consistent with his motion. At the age of 23, Dickson has a legit future as a reliever or #3 or #4 starter. Tarpley has a bit more upside than Dickson and is currently in A-Ball where he has a 7-2 record with a 2.29 ERA. He has 54 strike outs in 59 innings pitched so far this season. The 22-year-old lefty has an excellent fastball and solid curve.
The Padres and the Pirates match up very well on a potential trade. Again the Padres are going to have to be sellers in order for a trade to get done. If the team continues to win, then the Padres will be forced to hold off on selling their free agents. A.J. Preller has indicated that the team could go either way.
An interesting tidbit that just came out today is the Pirates are looking for an upgrade over Pedro Alvarez at 1st base. Alvarez has plenty of power, but has trouble being consistent. Would the Padres consider dealing Yonder Alonso and Clint Barmes to the Bucs for Pedro Alvarez? Alvarez is manager Pat Murphy‘s son in law. A reunion with his Father in law might spark Alvarez’s career. However Yonder has been one of the Padres best hitters this season. Is Alvarez really an upgrade for the Padres?
One would suspect the team to make lateral moves rather than upgrading or selling. They will potentially move pending free agents for players that are a fit for the future. That will be the likely scenario. Justin Upton‘s name will be coming up a lot in the next 10 days. We will see if the Padres get an offer they cannot refuse for his services.