Washington Nationals Editorial: Could Justin Upton be an Option for the Nats?


As the All-Star break wraps up, the trade deadline begins to creep ever so close. The Washington Nationals begin the second half of the season in first place of the National League East, and would like to build on that two game lead. The Nationals should look to add an impact bat to the middle of their order, and that could come in the form of San Diego Padres left fielder Justin Upton.

Jon Morosi reported earlier last week that Padres General Manager A.J. Preller may make the former All-Star outfielder available  before the July 31st trade deadline. Upton has struggled mightily in 2015 .hitting .253/.331/.422 with 14 home runs, 48 RBI, 45 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, and 95 strikeouts. Since going back out west, the 27-year-old outfielder just can’t seem to find his stride. In Upton’s last 30 games, he has played absolutely atrocious slashing .171/.266/.252, with two home runs, 11 RBI’s, seven runs scored, six stolen bases, and 37 strike outs. Upton just can’t seem to stay patient at the plate and will likely finish the 2015 season right around 200 strike outs.

Even though Upton is essentially a rental for the rest of the 2015 season, as he becomes a free agent in 2016, he will absolutely not come cheap. The Padres will at least be looking for two to three solid prospects in return for Upton’s services. However the Nationals are loaded in the Minor Leagues, and could be one of the few teams that could afford the outfielder.

More from Nationals News

The first player that I could see Preller asking for in the deal would be right-handed pitcher Austin Voth, who is currently pitching in double-A Harrisburg. Both has completely dominated double-A in 2015. He has a 4-5 record, 3.06 ERA, 98 strike outs, 22 walks, and a 1.07 WHIP. In his start July 13th, he dominated the Erie SeaWolves, pitching seven innings, striking out eight batters and walk one to pick up his fourth win of the season.

Voth could be a pitcher that the Padres bring up immediately to the 25-man roster, and put into their starting rotation for the rest of 2015. The Padres could also take the safer route, let him finish out the year in triple-A, then bring him up in Spring Training in 2016 to compete for a starting rotation spot.  Either route they decide, the Padres would be getting a pitcher that would ultimately be their top pitching prospect and make an impact immediately.

More from Nationals News

The second player that would head the Padres way could be 23-year-old shortstop Wilmer Difo, who is also currently in double-A Harrisburg. Difo has been at high-A Potomac and double-A Harrisburg, and has combined to slash, .296/.343/.416 with three home runs, 32 RBI, 34 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. So far throughout the month of July Difo is having the best month of his season, hitting .313/.378/.406, with eight RBI, two runs scored, three walks, and two stolen bases. Difo is currently with the Nationals as he was called up when Denard Span went on the DL.

Preller’s first mistake as Padres General Manager was trading 2014 first round pick Trea Turner to the Washington Nationals in the Wil Myers three team trade. This is the GM’s chance to redeem himself and acquire an ultra talented shortstop that could make an impact come the middle of 2016. The Padres current shortstop is Alexi Amaristawho is slashing .207/.276/.290, with two home runs, and 19 RBI. Difo won’t offer a ton of power, but provides good speed around the base path, makes great contact, and plays good defense at short.

The third and final player heading to the West Coast could be right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole, who has been off and on at triple-A Syracuse in 2015, struggling with his control a bit. Cole is 1-4, with a 3.91 ERA, 34 strike outs, 20 walks, and a 1.34 WHIP. Cole seemed to put everything together in his last start for Syracuse on July 10th against Rochester. He went six innings, gave up two hits, walked one and struck out two in the victory.

Cole would be a pitcher that the Padres could insert into their starting rotation right after acquiring him or even pitch him out of the bullpen if they’d prefer. Unlike Voth, I believe they would only take one route with Cole, and that would be making him apart of the 25-man roster right away. With acquiring these three players, I believe it sets the Padres back on the right track and could help them compete in the National League West in 2016.

With Upton moving back out east, it gives him a change of scenery here in Washington, D.C. and he will be in a lineup that will provide him much more protection than the one he is in out in San Diego. This could be a move that puts the Nationals atop the pile to win the 2015 World Series, and help Upton revive his so far dismal 2015 season.

More from District on Deck