With all the changes to the San Diego Padres roster, none is bigger than the addition of Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves. Max Fried, Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith and Jace Peterson were moved to the Braves in return for Upton and low minor league prospect Aaron Northcraft. In fact when James Shields signed with the Padres, Northcraft was designated for assignment. He eventually cleared waivers and is in the Padres minor league system currently. He was no quality prospect though by any means. The deal was four decent prospects for a one year rental of Justin Upton. Or is it a one year rental? Let us take a look.
Justin Upton has made it known that he doesn’t want to discuss his upcoming free agency while playing in the 2015 season. I really don’t blame him either. The game is difficult enough without having to play through contract issues. He has been at the major league level for eight seasons. In March of 2010 when Upton was with the Arizona Diamond Backs, he signed a 6-year $51.25-million dollar extension. The last year of that extension is 2015 and the $14.5 million the Padres owe. Justin Upton‘s agent Larry Reynolds has said he would only discuss an extension with the Padres before spring training. Well, that has come and gone. No talk, not even a whisper involving an extension. Odd as I expected the two parties to at least start initial negotiations.
The proverbial writing is on the wall for Upton’s tenure as a Padre. He, unless something magical happens, will be a one year rental. The Padres are already invested long-term into Matt Kemp and Will Myers through the 2020 season. Kemp is locked into one of the two corner outfield spots. Myers is honorably attempting to play center field, and is doing an adequate job of it. He ultimately should be the other corner outfielder, in a perfect world. Team that with the fact the Padres have Rymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe waiting in the minors. Both right-handed and corner outfielders. Justin Upton is just going to play the one year here in San Diego, it’s pretty evident.
Justin Upton is in the prime of his career. At the age of 27, he is surely going to have at least five more seasons where he is at the top of his game. The man will easily get in excess of $100 million dollars on the open market next off-season. The Padres could afford it, as their payroll will be roughly $45-million dollars next season. A.J. Preller has really taken a strategic approach to attacking the inadequacies of the Padres team itself. The Team is built for the long run.
Joaquin Benoit, Ian Kennedy, Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cory Luebke and Clint Barmes along with Upton will be free agents after this year. That’s $61.85 million dollars total off the books for those seven potential free agents. Benoit has an eight million dollar option for 2016 that the Padres might exercise. Kennedy will be gone without a doubt. Scott Boras as his agent, equals death to the Padres chances of retaining him. Quentin and Venable will not be resigned, not with all the outfielders on the Padres roster. Leubke has a lot of arm issues and I am sure the Padres have soured on him. Barmes is clearly a one year rental and more of a player/coach than anything. That leaves Upton as a potential resign candidate, but fiscally isn’t the major issue with bringing him back.
I hate to admit it, but retaining him long-term just doesn’t make sense. At least in a baseball perspective. The bottom line in my eyes is, it’s either Matt Kemp or Justin Upton. They are essentially the same person value wise to a major league team. Upton will get his $20 million a year from a Major League team, the Padres can certainly afford it, but should they? Probably not. Not with the current formation of the Padres 40-man roster.
So if the Padres don’t sign Upton, where do they spend their excess cash from all the free agents leaving? The upcoming free agent pitcher class is ridiculously loaded. David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Mat Latos, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Samardzija, and Tim Lincecum among others are all free agents. Perhaps the Padres will go after one of them, who knows? Either way the flexibility that A.J. Preller has is truly astonishing. He clearly has a plan and can make adjustments to his thought process at the drop of a hat. So will the Padres at least make a run at Upton?
I just don’t think its a responsible thing to do. With the rise of young talent like Myers, Renfroe and Liriano the Padres shouldn’t spend money on a position they already have organizational depth at. The only way I possibly see the Padres retaining Upton long-term, is if they move Matt Kemp in a trade. I really do not see that happening, the city and the organization have already fallen in love with Matt Kemp. Upton will also provide the Padres with a nice Type A free agent pick if he were to leave. Another motivating factor, as the Padres surely need help in rebuilding their farm system. Justin Upton will be a Padre, this one year, so don’t go and buy a Justin Upton jersey from the Padres store. That is just the cold hard facts. Enjoy him while he is here, the team is built to succeed now.