Padres News: Melvin Upton Playing Games, Near Rehab Assignment


May 10, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So, what happens when Melvin Upton is fully healthy?

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We’re getting closer to finding out.

Justin’s big brother played his first game of the year at the San Diego Padres’ Spring Training complex in Peoria, AZ this week. Melvin hasn’t played a game since developing a foot injury this February, during Spring Training with the Atlanta Braves. Upton was obtained by the Padres in a trade that occurred the day before the season started.

According to Reynolds Sports, Upton went 1-for-3 in his first game back:

Upton has been at the Peoria facility since April 10, according to Corey Brock of The Padres had a chance to meet with Upton while playing last week in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. Upton was spotted in the Padres clubhouse during the series as well.

A.J. Preller had this to say about the rehabbing outfielder:

"“The reports we’ve been getting back are that he’s able to run the bases and he’s been able to swing the bat a little bit and get on the field. We will continue that here for the next week and re-evaluate it. That’s kind of the next step.We’re making sure every day that he’s not in pain and the foot is still healing.”H/t to Corey Brock"

Upton will presumably be given a rehab assignment in Triple-A El Paso once he comes off the DL, which may be in the next week or so, per Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune. Manager Bud Black suggested that Upton would get 40-50 ABs before any decisions were made.

Upton was obtained in the trade that brought All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego, and allowed the Padres to part ways with two expensive contracts in Carlos Quentin, who has since retired, and Cameron Maybin, who is in contention for the starting center field position for the Braves.

Upton had been a tremendous disappointment for the Braves after signing a 5-year, $75 million contract after putting up three seasons with 20 home runs and 20 steals with the Tampa Bay Rays. In two years with Atlanta, Upton hit a combined .198 while compiling only 21 homers and 32 stolen bases.

The Padres presumably had to pick up Upton’s burdensome contract to complete the trade and land Kimbrel, arguably the best closer in baseball.

Once Upton is healthy, figuring out what to do with him will not be easy. The Padres are loaded with talented, productive outfielders in Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. It’s hard to imagine the team taking playing time away from any of these high-profile stars to give to Upton, who has been, dollar-for-dollar, the worst player in baseball the last two years.

Fourth outfielder Will Venable has been productive in limited time off the bench this season as well, filling in ably in center field with Myers manning first base for the injured Yonder Alonso. Venable is one of very few left-handed bats on the Padres’ major league roster.

Upton is set to earn $48 million dollars over the remaining three years of his contract, making him the highest-paid player on the Padres this season. If Upton’s production doesn’t significantly improve over his previous two seasons, it will be extremely interesting to see how much the Padres feel compelled to play him, particularly if they are in a pennant race.

A.J. Preller made a lot of fascinating and risky moves this offseason. This one has the potential to be one of the most compelling, with two very  divergent possible outcomes. If the former number-two-overall draft pick finds a way to regain the speed-power game that earned him his big contract, this trade could go down as one of the most lopsided trades in history, in the Padres favor. But, if he remains among the worst hitters in baseball, his contract could weigh down the team through the 2017 season.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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