After a few days of rumours, word came early Tuesday morning that the Toronto Blue Jays had secured the services of San Diego Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and cash in exchange for minor league pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) July 26, 2016
Many baseball fans will remember Upton (formerly known as B.J.) as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays where he hit .255 with 118 home runs and 447 runs batted in across eight seasons in St. Petersburg. After two forgettable seasons in Atlanta, Upton had found his bat again in his two season stint with the Padres.
While Upton doesn’t have the on-base skills to bat lead-off, the Blue Jays are adding a solid bat who hits well against left-handed pitching, and a defensive upgrade to Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista in the outfield. Hypothetically, it allows the team to move Bautista to first base and shift Justin Smoak to a more complimentary role coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter/late inning defensive replacement.
Looking forward to 2017, with the Padres contributing a large portion of his salary, acquiring Upton gives the Blue Jays outfield insurance to protect the team in the event that they lose both Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders to free agency.
Padres are paying all except $5M on melvin Upton. He has $22M plus left.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 26, 2016
In exchange for Upton, the Blue Jays are sending the Padres 19-year-old right-handed single-A pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez. Rodriguez was signed by the Blue Jays as an international prospect out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 for $330,000. Hansel is a long-term prospect who owns a fastball that can touch 95 mph at times and an above average curveball. Rodriguez was 2-1 with a 3.06 earned run average across six starts with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League.
All in all, it is a smart move by Atkins and Shapiro as it gives the team more roster flexibility in the short term, keeps Upton away from a team like the Orioles, and protects the Blue Jays in 2017 when there is much uncertainty surrounding the roster. All that for the price of a pitching prospect that is a long, long way from the major leagues.