Less than two weeks after shipping Drew Pomeranz off to Boston, the Padres have dealt another asset to a contender in the AL East, sending Melvin Upton Jr. to the Blue Jays for rookie league pitcher Hansel Rodriguez. Upton, the former no. 2 overall pick who’s spent the majority of his career failing to live up to his early promise with the Rays, suddenly became a desirable trade chip again off the strength of a comeback 2016 campaign, and figures to move around Toronto’s outfield and possibly see time at DH.
Meanwhile, San Diego’s fire sale continues to blaze: An Andrew Cashner deal seems imminent, and Matt Kemp could be on the move, too, provided another team is foolish enough to willingly absorb his massive contract. Upton couldn’t have become a Blue Jay at a better time: San Diego is currently playing a series in Toronto, so he’ll simply have to switch clubhouses.
Adding Upton is a win for the Blue Jays, if only to stick it to the division-leading Orioles, who were also in hot pursuit for The Strikeout Artist Formerly Known as B.J. Plus, for the second year in a row, Toronto has reinforced its lineup by acquiring a bat before the deadline. Upton is on pace for a 25/25 campaign, already tallying 16 dingers and 20 stolen bases; he’ll also offer the team some much-needed production against southpaws, to say nothing of his baserunning and defense on the corners. Jay Bruce and Jonathan Lucroy are the deadline’s best available bats, but the Blue Jays probably couldn’t have found a better fit than Upton. Between Upton, the recently activated José Bautista, Edwin Encarnación (tied for third in the majors with 27 home runs), Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, and 2016 breakout star Michael Saunders, the Blue Jays are a veritable offensive juggernaut, which is the only way to compete with Baltimore and Boston.
Upton may forever be known for his albatross of a contract, a five-year, $75.25 million deal with the Braves in 2012 — at the time the most lucrative in Atlanta’s history. The 31-year-old is owed $15.45 million this season and $16.45 million in 2017, but that’s not Toronto’s problem; San Diego is footing most of the bill. As such, trading for Upton was a no-brainer. Sure, he’s no Tulowitzki, but the Blue Jays basically got him for free. Upton may never grace the cover of Sports Illustrated again with kid brother Justin and supermodel Kate Upton (no relation), but helping the Blue Jays secure a playoff berth in the wildly competitive AL East would be a nice consolation prize.