Pirates Reportedly Interested in Justin Upton

Jon Morosi is reporting that the Pittsburgh Pirates have interest in San Diego Padres outfielder Justin Upton, but that could be put on hold if Jordy Mercer is out for an extended amount of time. We have heard in the past about the Pirates being interested in Upton, who will reach free agency at the end of this season. He is hitting .252/.331/.426 this season, which are his lowest numbers since being called up back in 2007. You would think that would be due to playing in an extreme pitcher’s park this year, but he actually has a .919 home OPS, compared to .615 on the road.

For now, the Pirates will wait for the news on Jordy Mercer and how much time he could miss. Most people want them to go out and pick someone up now without knowing if Mercer could miss days or months. The Pirates won’t make any decisions about a trade for now until they know whether or not picking up a long-term infielder has become more of a priority than outfield/offensive help. As mentioned last night, Mercer is in Pittsburgh being evaluated and an update on his injury will be available sometime within the next day or two.

UPDATE 11:43 AM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…

Looking at Upton’s trade value, he’s probably not going to cost a ton. He’s a rental, owed about $7 M the rest of the year, and you could probably assume he’d be worth an additional two wins above replacement the remainder of the year. That gives him a trade value of a little over $5 M, which is a Grade B hitting prospect. The price might be inflated beyond that, considering the extreme seller’s market.

It’s clear why the Pirates would be looking at someone like Upton. Right now they have Gregory Polanco in right field putting up an 0.6 WAR so far this year. I still love Polanco’s upside for the long-term, but I don’t think he’s going to suddenly reach that upside overnight. Granted, he does have a .789 OPS so far this month, but that’s a small sample size compared to the rest of the season. You hope it continues, but I don’t know if it’s something you bank on.

I see Upton’s value as being similar to Marlon Byrd a few years ago, when he landed Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. The key guy in the deal was Herrera, who was a Grade B hitting prospect on the rise in the lower levels. Upton’s value might be a bit different, since he’s making a lot more money, but his name value and large amount of buyers will certainly allow the Padres to get some good value for him.

As for whether the Pirates need to go this route, versus another avenue, that will probably depend on the injuries to Mercer and Josh Harrison. I’d say their more immediate need right now would be an infielder if Mercer has to miss a long amount of time. As I noted, they could also use an upgrade at first base with Pedro Alvarez struggling. So it’s not like right field is the only area where an upgrade would be needed.

  • Michael Sanders
    July 20, 2015 8:55 pm

    Sid Bream

  • Upton — no thanks.

    If the Pirates make a trade, let it be with an eye on the future, not the rest of this season. Besides, Polanco appears to be putting it together. The organization needs to show confidence in its players.

    • Do you not think the Pirates have a chance to go deep into the playoffs this season?

      • Yes, the Pirates can go deep into the playoffs this season. It is reasonable to expect the team with the third best record to to make the playoffs and to win one or more playoff series

  • Kang is a below average defensive SS imo. He is an above average to plus defensive 3rd baseman. Opinions on what the Pirates should do are a dime a dozen right now. We’ve gotten to what where we are Which is 53-38 (3rd in MLB) with a weak hitting Jordy Mercer most of this year and an under performing Josh Harrison. Jung ho Kang is the starting 3rd basemen of this team. He is flat out better than Harrison. Go out and get Clint Barmes back to play a solid SS. His numbers vs lefties is very good. Your not going to have much of a drop off offensively and he is an upgrade over Mercer defensively. When Harrison comes back he strengthen’s the bench. He can spell Polanco vs lefties. Upton would be too expensive. Where this tea needs an upgrade is 1B. I really thought Pedro would really be doing well right now and he is still just a hot streak away from being the guy we saw in 2013. Adam Lind looks real good to me right now. Bring in Barmes,Lind, maybe Zobrist and some bullpen help

  • I just had a terrible thought, what if the pirates did not get mad about gomez’s wwe tactics because they are interested in trading for him? I know, please say it ain’t so joe. He is available though so I’m just saying.

    • The irony of trading Travis Snider and trading for Gomez………..that’s not happening.

      • Mercer out six weeks, Harrison out six weeks, Pedro benched for non-performance. Punch and Judy starting tonight at first and third. Our needs are great. Ok Neil, all eyes are on you.

      • I thought I was making a joke until a few minutes ago when I read an article linking filthy gomez to the pirates, I am not laughing now, in fact I feel nauseous.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 20, 2015 1:53 pm

    For now, IMHO, Gift is their best option at SS – he would be a defensive upgrade over Mercer and Kang, and his hitting has improved this year. He hasn’t been in AAA long, but he’s 25 years old – and has a lot of minor league experience at AA level.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 20, 2015 1:51 pm

    I don’t see how Upton addresses their biggest needs. yes, he could play RF and maybe platoon there, but would he be happy being a platoon player? He also strikes out a lot. If he played or could play first base, it would make more sense.

    We need to improve on either #4 or #5 starter and we need a LH and RH reliever to displace Bastardo and Worley.

    A RH first baseman to platoon with Alvarez or someone like Lind to replace him altogether.

    • Upton is better than anyone on our team not named Cutch- he would not be platooning anywhere

      • Upton is a very streaky hitter and right now the pirate don’t need outfield help.

        • He’s still considerably better than Polanco, but I do agree that we need more help in the infield now

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        July 20, 2015 3:39 pm

        I don’t know if I agree with that….I think, at this stage in their careers, I would rather have Marte over Upton.

    • Upton would not be a platoon player. He would play every day with Polanco possibly going to AAA.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        July 20, 2015 3:39 pm

        We would do that for a 2-3 month rental and risk team chemistry and longer term impact on Polanco?

        • Up until recently Polanco has under performed. even now he could be so much better. A month or 6 weeks at AAA could benefit him and the Bucs. As for team chemistry that doesn’t win games performance does. You don’t have to like each other to win games.

  • nonsense jordy is a .240 hitter, and they have 3 ss at AAA. we need bats and upton can hit. if they bring morel up I’m not renewing my season tickets.

  • Would it be crazy to get Barmes back? He’d probably only need to be a starter for a month and still has a good glove, right?

    • My thoughts exactly.

    • They have younger, faster & better versions of Barmes in AAA, AA & single A.

      • No. No they do not.

        • You do not think that Gift could play a better SS right now than Barmes, or even Jordy Mercer? Barmes would hit better, I do agree with that.

          • No.

            • A pedro Ciriaco pick up would cost very little and provide the same flexibility if they don’t want to spend much- or again, steve pearce who can play third, a little OF, and even 3rd

          • I don’t agree or disagree. I just don’t know how good gift would immediately be compared to barmes who is pretty damn good in the field. I think in a pennant race I would take barmes’ glove over gift.

      • meatygettingsaucy
        July 20, 2015 12:29 pm

        Hanson was switched over to 2B so he’s most likely not an option, Gift has 11 games under his belt at SS in AAA, Frazier is far from a AAA, let alone a MLB-caliber SS, and Tucker and Newman are way too far off. So, please tell me about these younger, faster, better versions of Barmes.

        • Gift could play SS in the majors. He might not hit his weight (195), but he could play, defensively, a great SS in the majors right now.

        • The only guy they have is the x-twins ss…whose name escapes me and I don’t feel like looking it up. I noticed he played ss over gift last night so guessing they are getting him ready to go just in case.

        • jamminjoe66
          July 21, 2015 3:16 am

          Barnes has zero range & absolutely the worst bat I’ve seen at ss since Kevin Polkovich. Barnes only got playing time because he was Hurdles boy. I never want to see him in the Burgh again. He’s Rob Scuderi in cleats.

      • Better fielders? That remains to be seen.

      • The only one I can think of is Gift, and he’s probably just comparable as a fielder. Barmes can actually provide a bit of offensive value, while Ngoepe would struggle to top a .500 OPS right now.

    • I was stunned to see Barmes with a .764 OPS in San Diego of all places. I would put out feelers on him immediately. I’m not a doctor (hate people that start a sentence that way) but it looks like a tear or hyperextension. We dodged a massive bullet if he’s out any less than a month. If that’s the case I put the assets into first base. Whether it’s Lind replacing Pedro or a right handed compliment to Pedro – S Rod and Pedro aren’t cutting it anymore. Rodriguez wasn’t expected to hit a ton but right now he’s just not hitting at all.

    • ick

  • Response to “UPDATE”: At least Polanco has positive WAR in RF…Pedro is below replacement value. Seems like the below replacement value player would be the one you’d really want to upgrade. Even if Mercer isn’t out for an extended period of time, you still would want another IF depth option.

    • I don’t think you have to read very far between the lines to presume the issue isn’t with understanding the need, but identifying the replacement.

      • Adam Lind, even if you have to overpay to get him from a division rival. Bell will not be ready until at least the middle of next year. Lind would provide some stability at the position this year and next until Bell is ready.

        • As I said…

          • My friend, please expand…

            • With the large caveat of the current Front Office basically never having a single one of their actual trade targets leaked (meaning Lind very well may be an option), the fact that an outwardly obvious solution isn’t being considered probably means there’s more to the story.

              Adam Lind is probably worth a bit more than one win over the rest of the year and shouldn’t even be participating in a potential wild card game with the likely opponent being SF (Bumgarner) or CHC (Lester). If Doug Melvin wanted to play it old school and markup Lind with the intra-division premium then I don’t blame Huntington at all for not biting.

              • Maybe with Lind we have an opportunity to not be playing in the wild card game. It is unlikely that any one player (outside of some notable names who will never been on the move to the Bucs) will completely change the fate of the division. But 1 win over the rest of the season is even more than what the Cardinals project to get from their 1B over the remainder of the season, correct? That means that Lind would get us one game closer…and the Cardinals do not have any lefties to worry about do they? 😉

  • #tweetsfrom2012

  • IF the Pirates were going to make a quick trade it should be for Ben Zobrist. He can play 3B while Mercer is out while Kang plays SS and once he comes back he can play 2B, 3B, 1B, and the OF. He will hit better than Pedro or Mercer (a .768 OPS led by his really strong OBP numbers). Zobrist is a switch hitter who hits well from both sides with an OPS over .760 from both sides of the plate. This seems like a NO brainer to me…he helps now and helps once we’re completely healthy as well (OF depth or IF depth).

    • The upside of Zobrist is also the downside. He fills everyone’s need, so everyone wants him. He’ll cost, but he’s also, as you said, probably the best trade option.

      • So you overpay for Zobrist…you’re still getting a better Sean Rodriguez who can help this team a lot, all over the field, both the remaining of the season and through the playoffs. Once Harrison comes back you’d have 3 players with a ton of positional flexibility which is HUGE.

        • Sure, you could overpay for him, but if we can get, for example, both Ramirez and Lind for the same price as just Zobrist or less, especially with Lind still under contract next year, that route is better than overpaying for one fix-all guy, I think. It all depends on the market, though. If you can get Zobrist for less than Lind and Ramirez, do that, because there’s an upside to consolidating value into one player.

          • I do no think there is any way at all that we get Lind and Ramirez for the same price as we would Zobrist. I think Lind and Ramirez, from a division rival, would cost much more. Lind has better numbers than Zobrist and an additional year of control.

          • So taking up two roster spots when we only need one is a downside? That gives you an extra player to use on your roster how you want, and whatever that player’s value is, would be combined with zobrists when looking at the “total value” from a comparison point of view

            • Darkstone42
              July 20, 2015 3:01 pm

              2 wins from one player is better than 2 wins from 2 players over the rest of the season, and that’s borne out in the market. Having that extra roster spot allows you to add another player and their corresponding value.

              Even so, really the question between whether Zobrist or Lind/Ramirez will cost more is just Zobrist vs. Lind, effectively, unless the market for Ramirez is big. Ramirez has already announced his retirement, so the Brewers will take basically whatever return they can get for him in a lost season. He’ll be cheap, even in the division, for that reason.

    • Excellent post. Zobrist is the guy this team needs. He is so versatile but at the same time I would have no problem letting him take over some time at 1B once everyone is healthy.

  • We have issues at 1B and now SS the last thing we need is a malcontent to play a terrible right field.

    • You’re right about our needs…but Upton, to my knowledge, has never been a “malcontent” and would play an awesome RF…remember him robbing Mccutchen of his HR in LF earlier this year?

  • This move would not solve our most glaring issue: 1B. If you’re going to go after an OF bat why not trade for Marlon Byrd again? Will be less costly than Upton, most likely, and has a history with the team and PNC Park. We need a 1B and infield bench depth.

  • A combination of Lind and Ramirez from the Brewers might be a good move. Ramirez can play third while Mercer’s down, and then they can work in at bats for him when Harrison returns. Perhaps he wouldn’t be a disaster at first and could give us an option there against lefties, since Lind struggles against lefties.

  • Kang can handle SS. Question would be 3b then. Is it Morel or someone else? Keep in mind Morel was a third round pick, he’s got some ability more than most note in their comments. He’s also got 9 roundtrippers which is more than most all of our major league 3b have this year. Just sayin.
    Trade for Upton isn’t necessary IMO, probably just window shopping. 1b should be their priority and/or 3b depending on Harrison health. Still saying a priority effort should be to land Freddy Freeman. He’ll be healthy soon and he’s the impact player they need at 1b. Pedro should be a part of the deal – though he’s not going to make it happen. Value piece needs to be in prospects which Atlanta is actually stockpiling. They like arms and we have several that are close – along with players like Willy Garcia, even Elias Diaz as Atlanta is seeking catching options. #Freemanintheburgh #FindFreddy #Freddyforfirstbase

    • I can’t imagine the Braves trading Freeman. He’s locked up for a while on a reasonable contract. I would guess they’d rather build around him than trade him.

    • CaseyStengel
      July 20, 2015 2:30 pm

      Freeman?!! Really man…a stud like him and Goldschmidt don’t come around very often and creams won’t let them just walk…it’s amazing to see what some fans think the team should get, like other teams will just roll over…cmon maaaan!

  • Polanco’s been pretty good lately, and the clear weakness on the team is first base, If they intend to bring in a middle-of-the-order bat, that seems to be where it should go. Unless, of course, Upton has some as-yet unknown first-base-playing ability.