This was not easy to write, not easy at all. There is a possibility the San Diego Padres will be sellers at the July 31st MLB trade deadline. The team has played well of late, but in the game of baseball, you really never know. Just getting you Padres fans prepared for what might happen.
I really hate to think about moving Justin Upton, as he has been a delight to see in a Padres uniform. He has stepped to the plate at Petco Park and made the former pitchers park look like a little league field. He makes no excuse when hitting there, and his type of attitude is great for the team. I always suspected that a confident hitter could hit at Petco Park with no limitations.
Although with every long home run, I sincerely fear Justin Upton is pricing himself out of a Padres uniform. The Padres would surely love to re-sign the slugging outfielder, but can the franchise afford to open up the pocketbook for him? Upton is likely to command anywhere between $150-200 million dollars on the open market.
So with that price tag set, can the San Diego Padres retain him? The answer is yes, as the team has flexibility in its payroll over the next few seasons. However that is a lot of money to pay to one player, and the team is already on the hook for over $86 million to Matt Kemp starting next season. The Padres can sign him, but will they instead decide to deal him for prospects? That is a question that will likely be asked all the way to the July trade deadline. The teams play will ultimately determine what happens to Upton.
So what kind of return could the Padres get for Justin Upton? Take in consideration teams would essentially be renting him for a few months. They are not likely to pay as much as the Padres did in the off-season. A.J. Preller gave up some talented players in Max Fried, Mallex Smith, Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson. Fried and Smith were considered top 10 prospects for the Padres. A four for one deal would be nearly impossible to get done in July.
There has been speculation that the Padres could move Justin Upton to the Washington Nationals in order to retain the rights to Trea Turner. To me that seems highly unlikely. The Nationals are likely to retain Turner, as the team is more than likely going to lose Ian Desmond via free agency at the end of the year. Desmond is the starting shortstop now, but he already turned down a contract extension in the excess of $100 million dollars from the team. The Nationals will let him walk, and Turner will be their man in the near future.
The Chicago Cubs would be a nice trade partner for the Padres. Their excess of middle infielders makes a potential deal possible. Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Starlin Castro would all be huge upgrades for the Padres at the shortstop position. Castro seems the most likely to be moved by the Cubs, but a straight up deal of Upton for Castro seems like a sideways move for both teams.
The Cubs, if in the playoff race, would surely want to have a shortstop who has some experience. Javier Baez is in AAA Iowa and recently suffered a finger injury. He will be sidelined 4-6 weeks at least. That brings us to Addison Russell, who is currently playing everyday at second base. Russell could easily play shortstop and is probably a better defender than Starlin Castro.
If the Cubs were to be deep in the race come late July and they needed some right handed punch, the Padres could easily fill that need. It pains Padres fans to think about losing Justin Upton. However if the Padres were able to bring in a player like Addison Russell for him, then you just have to do it. It makes the team better. Especially if you realize as a franchise that you cannot afford to sign Upton long-term.
It would take a lot of factors for a Russell/Upton deal to become a reality. The Cubs must be in the playoff race and also be comfortable that Starlin Castro has matured. Russell is clearly who the team sees as the shortstop of the future, but Baez is in the minors and Castro is still only 25-year-old. Losing Russell to take on a player in his prime like Justin Upton, might just be worth it for the Cubbies. You never know the thoughts of a team trying to improve themselves.
Another necessity for this deal to become a reality, is the Padres would have to completely be out of the playoff race. The team is playing excellent right now and that does not seem plausible. However, the game of baseball can turn on you in a second. The Padres are likely keeping their options open. Fact is, the team really doesn’t know what they are going to do with Justin Upton.
If the team continues to play well, then the team will be forced to commit to him for the entire 2015 season. They will attempt to sign him in the off-season, and if he re-signs elsewhere, they will get a great compensatory pick in the 2016 MLB draft. That is a likely scenario, and probably the outcome of the Justin Upton saga as a San Diego Padre player.
However, if the team does try to sell off their slugger then teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers will likely come sniffing around Padres camp. A.J. Preller has already shown a propensity to get a deal done. The general manager is likely to make a move regardless. The Padres farm system is surely in need of a boost and the Padres have Upton, Will Venable, Joaquin Benoit and Ian Kennedy all free agents at the end of the 2015 season. Each has value, and in turn could bring decent prospects to a depleted farm system.
Not trying to rain on anyone’s parade Padres fans, just getting the fans prepared for all possible outcomes. The season is far from over and the reality is nobody can foresee what is in the future. The Padres have many plans laid out, it is just a matter of what the product on the field does, to determine which plan of action the team takes. Either way it has never been a better time to be a Padres fan. The future is bright and the team is taking great strides to improve. Friar faithful rejoice!