Monday, December 15, 2014

The Price Of Acquiring Justin Upton

Last week, the Padres pulled off one of the biggest deals of the off-season in acquiring Matt Kemp. Despite the star-studded addition of Kemp, the Padres clearly need to do more. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has reported that the Padres are interested in acquiring outfielder Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves.

The deal would surely be a pricey one for San Diego, in both money and potentially with players and prospects. Atlanta has already dealt Jason Heyward this off-season and Upton might be next. The Braves got young, controllable pitching from St. Louis in Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Rosenthal pointed out that the cost of Upton will likely be far greater than the return that Atlanta received for Heyward.

San Diego has the trade chips to make a deal, but must also take on Upton’s salary. Upton is due $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. The Padres would likely have to push their payroll past $100 million in order to acquire Upton, which doesn’t seem too far-fetched after the Kemp deal.
Do the Padres and Braves match up in a deal? Here are a few trade scenarios that could play out between the two clubs:

Padres send SP Andrew Cashner and minor league SP Justin Hancock to Atlanta for Upton: In this scenario, the Padres essentially offer two years of Cashner for a year of Upton, plus a promising prospect.

The Padres have intimated that they want to keep Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Cashner together, in hopes of chasing a playoff berth. However, adding Upton, while not depleting the farm system. Cashner, 28, had a sparkling 2.55 ERA in 19 starts, but has not seemed open to a contract extension with to stay with the Padres. Cashner would give the Braves a talented arm to put at the front of their rotation.

Hancock, 24, was the Padres ninth round pick in 2011. He suffered through an injury-marred campaign in 2014, and also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Hancock produced a 4.12 ERA in Double-A last year, and could be a contributor by 2016. He has a sinker that can reach 94 MPH, but he has also had injury issues in 2014.

Padres trade SP Matt Wisler, 2B Taylor Lindsey, RP Tayron Guerrero to Atlanta for OF Justin Upton: In this scenario, the Padres give up their top prospect, pitcher Matt Wisler. Including Wisler, who is the #44 prospect in the game, according to, would be a steep price to pay indeed.
After a rough start in Triple-A, Wisler recovered nicely, and pitched well down the stretch. Wisler features a fastball that sits between 93-95MPH, with remarkable command. Wisler has only walked 2.4 batters per nine innings in his professional career and could easily win a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.

San Diego acquired second baseman Taylor Lindsey in the Huston Street deal last July. Prior to the 2014 season, Lindsey was rated a top-100 prospect by Baseball America, but he suffered through a lackluster campaign. Lindsey produced a meager .238/306/.372 slash-line as a 22-year-old in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Lindsey is still very young, and could give the Braves some middle infield depth.
Guerrero, 23, has never pitched above High-A, but the Padres added him to the 40-man roster this off-season. Guerrero has pitched primarily out of the pen in the Padres system, and is armed with a fastball that touches 100MPH. Guerrero would be another intriguing prospect that Atlanta can add to the system.

In lieu of trading a top prospect like Wisler, the Padres could offer lesser prospects, and take on a bloated contract like Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton. That scenario seems unlikely, however.

Quite frankly, the Padres interest seems strange. Even with Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, the Padres are still short of becoming a contender. The everyday lineup still features Yonder Alonso, who was a non-tender candidate and Jedd Gyorko, who had a .280 on-base percentage. Upton would not likely be a long-term solution, as he has just one year of control.

An Upton trade would excite fans in San Diego, and perhaps the Padres have another hitter in the lineup breakout. The Padres could also recover a draft pick, which would ease the blow of trading precious prospects. Either way, the Padres have become a team to watch in the off-season, which is something one could not say before.