First of all, the Padres can’t really afford him. He’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to sign a seven-year, $147 million contract. Despite their big spending/trading last offseason, general manager A.J. Preller and the team can’t nearly afford that.
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Really, though, the team shouldn’t want to spend that much money on one player anyway. They need to build up depth, which they can’t possibly do when tied down by a huge contract.
When looking at Upton’s numbers, he’s not a player worth that kind of money. In today’s day and age, though, big-market teams will overspend for players like him. The Padres are a small-market team and should spend wisely because of that.
Yes, Upton’s power numbers are solid. He hit 26 balls out of the park and drove in 81 runs in 2015, but he also hit just .251. Those aren’t elite numbers; they’re simply very good numbers.
Is Justin Upton a very good player? Yes. Is he an elite player? Not really. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, the Padres can’t just let their power hitting outfielder walk. They must give him a qualifying offer. Essentially, this is a one-year contract that would pay him around $15 million. There isn’t a chance he would accept this, so why would they offer this to him?
The answer is simple: the team gets a first-round draft pick from any team that signs him this offseason. For a team looking to build up a base of young talent, that draft pick could be really important. Since they can’t afford him anyway, they might as well get something for him.
In a couple years, the Padres can look at whatever big-market team signs Upton and laugh at how much they’re paying him. With some savvy moves over the next couple seasons, the franchise can forget all about not being able to afford the slugger.