Jays From the Couch looks at the idea of the Toronto Blue Jays trading Melvin Upton Jr to fill other areas of need, specifically the bullpen
Here we are in January, and the Toronto Blue Jays are starting the January moves we knew would be coming: the minor league deals and the waiver claims. While the organization has a AAA roster that desperately needs to be filled out, many are focused on the product that will take the field at Rogers Centre. They judge any deal on its ability to impact said product.
In that department, there is still work to be done. While there might be enough staff in place to fill the remaining outfield spot, how it gets filled out is still up in the air. There seems to be a glut of options there in Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr. Dalton Pompey, and even Darrell Ceciliani had his name thrown in by GM, Ross Atkins. That’s 4 guys to fill the LF and bench jobs. Someone’s definitely on the bubble. You have to think that Ceciliani is at the bottom of that list. At the other end, Upton looks to be the one to get the lion’s share of the attention.
But, what if he can net the Blue Jays a bullpen piece, which is an area that isn’t so flush with options? Do you trade him? Do you take from an area of depth to address another?
Here’s the thing, Upton presents a lot of value for a club looking for an everyday outfielder. Despite what a pocket of Blue Jays fans may think, he does. He was worth 10 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in LF last season. That might be hard to believe if you watched that one game where he all but forgot how to use his glove, but it is true. When you consider that he held his own in the other two spots in the outfield, he starts to look pretty good.
On top of that, he will hit you double digit home runs, with the potential of 20- his 2016 mark. He has power and speed to offer, which is a bit of a rare mix. He brings all of this to the table for a fraction of what you would expect to pay, thanks to some brilliant dealings by Atkins, who managed to have his club take on a minimal financial commitment. Upton’s 20-20 potential and very low cost could make him a very appealing piece for other clubs. Of course, any club would also be taking on his high K% (nearly 29%) last season.
For the Blue Jays, they have to ask themselves just how much they want to improve the bullpen. Do they want to trade for a sure(er) thing, rather than looking to take the “spaghetti method” (throw a bunch of options against the wall to see what sticks) in the form of minor league deals, etc.? Trading Upton Jr would certainly fetch them a piece that would be more impactful.
But, that also means that they are leaving themselves with the options of Carrera and Pompey as the remaining outfield options in the outfield. All things considered, this might not be a bad group to go along with Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar, assuming the return is a decent reliever. While the club would be missing out on the home run power, they wouldn’t be missing out on defensive capabilities, they wouldn’t be selling themselves short in terms of depth and they wouldn’t be missing much in terms of speed on the basepaths, especially if Pompey were to see more playing time. Of course, the argument against this is that Upton Jr is more of an everyday player than Pompey, and to an extent, Carrera.
But, to address areas of need, you have to deal from areas of strength. One could argue that an area of strength for this Blue Jays team is their wallet. We hear rumblings that there is money available to address the final touches to this roster, after spending on Bautista, Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. How much of that can, and will, be used before Spring Training versus ear-marking it for mid-summer Trade Deadline deals remains to be seen. But, if you can bring in solid pieces without spending money, you probably look to do that every time.
Atkins has told us that he is looking at players with an eye to value per dollar spent. Well, this is what makes dealing Upton tricky- the money spent is minimal for the Blue Jays. In that sense, he represents value. He represents so much value that he very well could be a piece that you dangle out there in the hopes of solidifying the bullpen. But, do you do that and feel comfortable going with Carrera and Pompey in your outfield? Obviously, the answer would depend on the return.
POLL: All things considered, do you make a deal involving Melvin Upton Jr.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 cropped from original
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