Blue Jays Trade for Melvin Upton

Hansel Rodriguez
Hansel Rodriguez

The Blue Jays have made their first strike in the trade-deadline campaign, acquiring outfielder Melvin Upton (formerly known as B.J.) and cash from the San Diego Padres in exchange for currently Bluefield Blue Jay Hansel Rodriguez.


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Upton will add a right-handed bat to the outfield and will be able to spell Michael Saunders against tough lefties while also rotating to center and right field and DH. Upton, 31, has a career .245/.323/.404 slash line but was a star in Tampa Bay, showing speed and power, particularly in his career year of 2007 when he posted a .300/.386/.508 slash line with 22 steals and 24 home runs. Since 2008, however, Upton’s OBP has been much lower, never topping .331 and (from 2012-2014) has dipped below .300.



This season, with San Diego (playing in notoriously bad hitter’s ballpark) Upton is hitting .256/.304/.439 with 16 home runs and 20 steals in 92 games, providing exactly league average offense with a 100 OPS+ and 100 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR (Fangraphs’ WAR) and 1.9 rWAR (Baseball Reference’s WAR). Upton is hitting for a higher average and slugging percentage on the road with a .262/.299/.464 slash line while hitting for a .248/.309/.410 line at home in Petco Park (in almost the same number of plate appearances). In addition, Upton is dominating lefties to the tune of a .282/.337/.576 slash line while hitting only .247/.293/.394 against righties. This bodes well for the Blue Jays who play in a much more hitter-friendly park and can shelter Upton a bit against righties with the depth of Saunders/Bautista/Pillar already in the outfield. Reports are that the Padres are sending a fair amount of cash to cover some of Upton’s remaining $22 million (approximately) for this year and next.


Going back to the Padres is 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Hansel Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been pitching with the Bluefield Blue Jays and has a 3.06 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 32 1/3 innings, starting six games. He’s struck out 26 and walked 11, showing far better numbers than he did in the Gulf Coast League over the two previous seasons.


Rodriguez was the Blue Jays’ #18-ranked prospect (according to has a 65-grade fastball to go with developing secondary pitches. I’ve seen him throw as hard as 94 mph (in spring training) and it’s likely that he’s sitting there now with a peak that could be a little harder (there are reports that he’s hit 97-98 mph). I liked his sharp slider and his changeup that had a lot of downwards movement.


While Hansel has the projection of a big leaguer, trading such a low level minor leaguer for Upton is probably about as low of a purchase price as the Jays could get while the Padres, are getting an arm who could really develop over the coming years.


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