Kansas City Royals fans can add Melvin Upton, Jr. to their deadline deal trade target list, according to baseball insider Jon Heyman at Sports Rag’s Today’s Knuckleball.
Heyman is speaking speculatively about Upton, as well as fellow Padres outfielder Jon Jay. Heyman also throws water on some earlier Yordano Ventura trade rumors when he quotes an unidentified KC Royals official as saying:
"“With starting pitching at a premium, of course we aren’t trading him.”"
I identified Melvin Upton, Jr. as a possible trade target last month, and he’s actually solidified his market value with continued production over the last few weeks. Given that Upton had been a dumpster fire pretty much ever since the Braves signed him as a free agent before the 2013 season, his continued success makes it more and more likely that his 2016 bounce-back isn’t a mirage.
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Upton is hitting .253/.305/.402 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs, 32 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He’s a plus defender as a corner outfielder and has produced a quite respectable 1.3 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement, Baseball-Reference) in 287 plate appearances with the Padres in 2016. This solid performance follows a .259/.327/.429 season in 2015, which was a vast improvement over his horrific 2013 and 2014 numbers with Atlanta.
Upton’s 93 wRC+ (Adjusted Runs Created) isn’t exactly impressive, but he’s still a productive player due to his base-running and defense.
At this point, however, adding an outfielder seems to be on hold with Paulo Orlando slashing .354/.380/.456. His BABIP (Batting Average Balls In Play) is still an outrageous .458, which everyone keeps saying must come down, except the hits continue to fall in. Brett Eibner has cooled off a bit with more exposure, but he’s still hitting a rather healthy .294/.333/.500. Between the two, KC Royals manager Ned Yost can juggle the hot bat in and out of the lineup. If neither are hitting, he can turn to base-running and defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson.
With Alex Gordon‘s immanent return, Yost has to think he can mix and match his way to filling one outfield spot. OF course, the next month can change all of the above analysis, so laying the groundwork for a possible future deals makes a lot of sense for the Kansas City Royals front office.