A couple of weeks back, I talked about what the St. Louis Cardinals could do, if Jason Heyward chooses to sign elsewhere. One player that I completely missed and should have given consideration to is Justin Upton. Upton has what the Cardinals have been missing; an impact bat to nestle in the middle of the order and jumpstart the offense. So, could he be a viable option for the St. Louis Cardinals to consider? Let’s take a look.
Justin Upton has consistently put about the same numbers since about 2009, he will hit for about .260-.290, with close to 30 homers and close to 30 doubles. He is a player that other teams pitch carefully to as one swing of the bat will potentially change the game. Something that the Cardinals have been missing since Carlos Beltran left in 2013.
Beltran is actually a pretty comparable player for Upton. They both play in the OF and both have 30 home run potential with a slightly below .300 average. Upton could easily come in and add a lot of pop to this Cardinals’ team, as did Beltran in 2012-2013, just not enough to give up on signing Heyward. It is however, enough to consider if he still around if/when the Cardinals lose out on him. The career 121 wRC+ is right on par with what Heyward produced this past season and would be very good to have on this team.
I do want to caution you however, Upton has not played RF since the 2013 season with the Braves, where he had a -1.5 UZR at the position in 419.1 innings. This was after a season in which he posted a -3.1 UZR with the Diamondbacks, after posting pretty good UZR’s at the position in the past, thus the reason behind the move to LF.
So, in terms of defense, it may be a a bit unrealistic to expect Upton to play RF, which drops him out of consideration with the Cardinals. However, if I am John Mozeliak (unfortunately I am not), I at least give Upton some consideration to come and play in RF.
I was watching MLB Network’s Hot Stove show earlier today, and they got to talking about Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, and Upton and how all three were going to have big pay days. In reference to Upton, they metioned that he was the most consistent offensive performer. Which is just not true, Derrick Goold brought to attention last week that Upton has had a wildly inconsistent OPS his past 12 months.
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Looking at the last three months of his 2015 season, Upton had .757 (September), .923 (August), .552 (July). That’s not very good and not something the Cardinals’ need in their already inconsistent offense. This is going to potentially be a reason the Cardinals don’t pursue Upton.
Inconsistency is not something the Cardinals can afford to pay big dollars for and it is not something I as a fan want the Cardinals to pursue. Upton would likely be a particularly frustrating player to watch, as he has so much power in that bat yet he has not hit over 3o homers since 20
One could make the case that Upton has yet to play on a really good ball club and infusing him into the Cardinals’ lineup around guys like Piscotty, Peralta, and Grichuk could help ease him, as could being away from younger brother Melvin Upton Jr. and his struggles.
Regardless, you can cross Upton off of my list (and hopefully Mozeliak’s list), when you take into consideration his potential inability to play RF and his inconsistency on offense, he’s not a player the Cardinals need to spend a whole lot of money on.
Especially since the Cardinals can turn to Stephen Piscotty/Tommy Pham and have guys like Anthony Garcia, Charlie Tilson, and Magneuris Sierra on their way up. Also, with the Lance Lynn news it just doesn’t make sense for the Cardinals to pursue an OF with the money saved from Heyward.
That’ll do it for today’s edition of Hot Stove. What are your thoughts on Justin Upton?