Melvin Upton Jr: Let’s Stop this Trade Talk and Root for the Padres

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Apr 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Melvin Upton Jr. (2) hits an RBI single during the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Melvin Upton Jr. (2) hits an RBI single during the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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So, Melvin Upton Jr.has been playing reasonably well for 20 games. And the most common thing I hear about him is that he’s increasing his trade value.

WTH?

What is it about Padres fans that makes them want to trade someone as soon as they start performing well? I know… we all have a preconceived notion about who Melvin Upton is, about what his value is, and it’s largely based on seeing his name on every “worst contract” list we’ve read for the last couple of years. But the reason his contract is bad isn’t that he’s paid too much money. There are dozens of players earning higher salaries than B.J. The reason that it’s bad is because his production hasn’t warranted that much money. And that’s very different.

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Upton hasn’t been nearly as bad as we feared when we basically traded bad contracts with the Braves to rid ourselves of Carlos Quentin.

If he starts to produce at a level that good left fielders produce at, then his contract is not only a good value, it’s exactly what is desired by every other team in baseball. The entire free agent system is designed around signing good baseball players to contracts worth a lot of money. And sure, it’d be great to be like the Royals and put together a championship team with a middle-of-the-pack payroll (16th), but that’s not the model that usually wins championships. In the last 40 years, only seven teams with payrolls not ranked in the top 12 have won the World Series. And twenty of the 40 champs had payrolls in the top 5. Winning costs money. As some smart economist once said, it’s worth more to get from 85 wins to 90 than it is to get from 80 to 85.

So what we want are good ballplayers, really regardless of the contract.

And so far, Upton has been ok. As a Padre, he’s slashing .258/.331/.424. Compared to other major league left fielders who had enough ABs to qualify last season, that would rank Upton in the top ten in each category. That’s above average production, and if you add in his stolen bases (one every 21 plate appearances) and his center field-caliber speed, he’s performing at a higher level than the average major league left fielder all-around.

If the Padres had above average players at every position, they wouldn’t be playing .300 ball right now.

So let’s cut Melvin Upton some slack. His salary isn’t really his fault now, is it. Let’s enjoy watching him leg out some extra base hits and reach fly balls that Carlos Quentin couldn’t come within 20 feet of. Let’s let him continue to bounce back from his bad stretch with the Braves. Let’s keep the trade talk on hold, and root for our Padres.

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