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.
#Pirates interested in Justin Upton, but they will prioritize an infielder if Jordy Mercer is out for extended period. Holding pattern now.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 20, 2015
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.