According to a Fox Sports report published yesterday, Padres outfielder Justin Upton could be made available at the July 31 trade deadline. While the Padres may be reluctant to trade Upton, they may nevertheless do so if they find the right deal.
Upton is batting .259/.338/.434 this season with 14 home runs, 46 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, so any team vying for him would likely view him as the quintessential rental player for the season's home stretch.
Should the Padres end up shopping Upton, the Mets should consider making a reserved push for him. While trading one of their "Big Five" pitching prospects or Michael Conforto for a rental would be unwise, Upton is exactly the type of player that the Mets need, as he is a potent combination of power and speed. The Mets have scored the fewest runs in the National League and have no player with more than five stolen bases. Even if Upton doesn't play like a superstar, he would still be a major upgrade over Michael Cuddyer, and batting him in the middle of the order would provide support to an ailing lineup.
In such a deal, the Mets would only be on the hook for a portion of Upton's $14.25 million this season, after which he would become a free agent. Because the Mets have been unable to spend much on their team over the past few seasons, renting Upton for the season's final two months may be the only way for them to add a star player without taking on a high salary.
When the Padres acquired Upton from the Braves in the offseason, they traded four prospects including pitcher Max Fried and shortstop Jace Peterson. Fried was the Padres' third-best prospect going into last season according to Baseball America, and Peterson was ranked seventh. Since Upton is having a slightly down season and would be considered a rental, it is possible that he could be acquired for a considerably lower price than what San Diego paid in the offseason. If the Mets could trade a few second-tier prospects like Rafael Montero or Gavin Cecchini for Upton, that's a deal they should jump at. Whether that'd be enough to convince the Padres to move Upton—or even outbid any other teams in pursuit—remains to be seen.
For now, it seems like the Padres are somewhat reluctant to trade Upton, though may ultimately have no choice but to do so. After a wild offseason that included the acquisitions of Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Craig Kimbrel, the Padres have failed to meet expectations. They are currently 39-48, nine games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers and 8.5 behind the Cubs for the final National League Wild Card spot. Their aggressive offseason hampered their farm system: They had the sixth-best system according to Baseball America last year, but fell to 24th this year due in large part to trades that included top prospects. Because Upton is an impending free agent, the Padres may elect to get something for him rather than letting him play out a lost season for the Padres and then walk away to another team in free agency.