Blue Jays acquire Melvin Upton from Padres
Veteran outfielder expected to start Wednesday
The Toronto Blue Jays addressed two needs with one deal Tuesday by acquiring Melvin Upton Jr. from the San Diego Padres for a low-level pitching prospect.
Upton's addition gives the team a quality veteran backup outfielder for the stretch drive and also provides stability next year in the event of free agency departures.
General manager Ross Atkins said he started talking with the Padres when right-fielder Jose Bautista suffered a toe injury in mid-June.
"What attracted us to (Upton) was several things: the defence at all three positions, speed, base-running, base-stealer, power, versatility and depth," Atkins said. "So I feel great about some of the pieces in the minor leagues, but adding him to our major-league team now and having another year of control seemed to make sense for us."
The Blue Jays also received cash from San Diego in return for 19-year-old Hansel Rodriguez, who's in his third season with Bluefield in the rookie-level Appalachian League.
Padres are paying all except $5M on melvin Upton. He has $22M plus left.—@JonHeyman
Upton, 31, had a .256 batting average over 92 games with San Diego. He hit 16 home runs and had 45 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, a .304 on-base percentage and .439 slugging percentage.
He was available to come off the bench against his former team on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
"He's having a nice year," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "So we'll think he'll add something."
Bautista returned Monday night after missing over five weeks of action. Michael Saunders is enjoying an impressive season in left field and Kevin Pillar is the everyday centre-fielder.
Upton said he hadn't yet talked to Gibbons about his defined role on the team.
"He said I was going to play, that we didn't bring you here just to have you here, that I was brought to the team to (help them) win," Upton said. "What that might be, I don't know. From what I understand, I'm going to be seeing a lot of lefties. I'm good with that. And whatever else he needs me to do, I'm up for it."
Upton is particularly strong against left-handed pitchers and could be slotted in at the leadoff spot if needed. Barring injury to one of the regulars, he'll likely be used as a late-inning replacement or when a starter needs a rest day or is moved into the designated hitter spot.
Im excited to join my new <a href="https://twitter.com/BlueJays">@BlueJays</a> teammates today and can't wait to help continue the winning tradition that's been built here. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/letsgo?src=hash">#letsgo</a>—@MelvinUptonJr
"We're getting to that time of year where we want to be able to rotate that DH a little bit too and keep them all as fresh as possible," Gibbons said.
Ezequiel Carrera has served well as a backup outfielder this season but he has been hampered of late by an Achilles tendon issue.
"We feel much more protected now than we did yesterday," Atkins said.
Upton sat out San Diego's past two games, including Monday's 4-2 loss to Toronto. He will likely make his first start with the Blue Jays on Wednesday when the teams close out their three-game interleague series.
Bautista and Saunders are in the final year of their respective contracts. Upton, meanwhile, is in the fourth year of a US$75.25-million, five-year deal he signed with Atlanta before the 2013 season.
Upton will earn $16.45 million next year. Atkins declined comment on financial details but reports indicated the Padres will pay about three-quarters of Upton's remaining salary.
Upton was selected by Tampa Bay with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft and made his big-league debut with the Rays in 2004. He spent eight seasons with Tampa.
"It's kind of where it all started, this division," he said. "I definitely know the cities. It's a tough division. It's definitely not uncomfortable. I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Upton signed with the Braves in November 2012 and was traded to the Padres in April 2015.
To make room on the roster for Upton, Toronto optioned reliever Ryan Tepera to triple-A Buffalo.
Atkins will likely turn his focus to adding some pitching help with the trade deadline fast approaching.
"We're not done in any way," he said. "If there's a way to make our team better we're going to continue to do it and it doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be another position player.
"Now there just would have to be some subtraction and now we've made that very difficult to do."