TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their first big move of 2016 by acquiring veteran Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres on Tuesday morning.Toronto picked up the versatile outfielder in exchange for Class A pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez, who was the Blue Jays' No. 18 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.The deal
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their first big move of 2016 by acquiring veteran Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres on Tuesday morning.
Toronto picked up the versatile outfielder in exchange for Class A pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez, who was the Blue Jays' No. 18 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.
The deal also involves cash considerations. Upton is owed approximately $22 million through the end of next season, and the Padres will cover all but $5 million, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
"What attracted him to us was several things," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins explained. "The [play] at all three [outfield] positions -- speed, baserunning, power, versatility and depth. We feel great about some of the pieces in the Minor Leagues, but adding him to our Major League team and adding another year of control seemed to make sense for us."
Upton has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence this season, with a .256 average, 16 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .743 OPS. He posted those numbers while playing every day, but he's not expected to get that opportunity in Toronto. Instead, Upton will settle into a reserve role, however, there should still be plenty of chances to get into the lineup. He made his Blue Jays debut as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of Toronto's 7-6 walk-off win Tuesday, reaching on a fielder's choice.
Toronto will continue to use Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar and José Bautista in the outfield on a regular basis. Upton will likely get most of his starts vs. left-handed pitching, when the Blue Jays could shift one of their outfielders to the designated-hitter spot and use Edwin Encarnacion at first base.
Upton should also be expected to rotate through all three outfield spots when one of the starters needs a day off. Toronto and San Diego initially began talking about a trade when Bautista went down with a left foot injury in the middle of June, and while the Blue Jays' needs are not as pressing as they were then, it still made sense to increase the depth to protect against any future setbacks.
"I'm here to help this team win in whatever capacity that might be in," Upton said. "I've been around for a little while, and I think the main goal, especially at this point in my career, is try to win a ring. I'm happy to be around this group of guys, I'm happy to be on a winning ballclub with a chance to win the division and a chance to make it to the postseason. Whatever I can do to help this team get to that point, I'm willing to do it."
Toronto previously had reported interest in San Diego right-hander Andrew Cashner. It's not immediately clear whether the two sides ever came close to a bigger trade, but Cashner remained with the Padres following Tuesday's trade, and he started against the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Atkins admitted the Blue Jays and Padres spent some time discussing a bigger deal, but in the end, the clubs decided to settle on the one-for-one swap. The move provides a clear upgrade over fourth outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, and it gives Gibbons the ability to go with a lot of different looks.
Upton, a former No. 2 overall Draft pick, spent eight years as a star for the Rays. He signed a five-year deal with the Braves prior to the 2013 season, and he struggled for most of the next three years, before bouncing back in 2016. He's a career .245 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage, and he has stolen at least 20 bases eight times.
"We talked a lot with San Diego," Atkins said. "We talked a lot of hypotheticals, we talked a lot of potential deals with them. They had interesting pitching as well. We talked with many organizations. There's not one team we haven't contacted on several occasions. We've contacted all 29 on several occasions in some way, and there's five to 10 teams we're talking to on a regular basis, and now it's mostly focused on pitching."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
One of two players -- along with José Altuve -- with at least 16 homers and 20 steals, Upton Jr. has provided immense surplus fantasy value this season. But even with that and his new home in a hitter-friendly lineup and venue, the outfielder could see his stock drop some because of this trade. The potential issue, in this case, will come down to lineup spot. If he leads off, the 31-year-old may be less apt to steal; if he hits lower in the order, his counting stats could take a small hit. In San Diego, Upton's departure could create a spot for Hunter Renfroe, the Triple-A home-run leader with 25, who is worth stashing in all mixed leagues at this time.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.