Justin Upton: Should the Outfielder be on the Astros Wish List?

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Should the Houston Astros Pursue Justin Upton? 

Sep 2, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Justin Upton (10) is congratulated after scoring during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, free agency has not yet begun. But that doesn’t mean that it is too early to speculate on which players that the Astros front office may have on its radar. Whether that should be bullpen help, another bat, or a starting arm for the rotation is left to be seen.

But with Colby Rasmus quite possibly on the way out of Houston after his monstrous postseason performance, the Astros may be looking at a platoon situation in left field consisting of Jake Marisnick, Preston Tucker, and Evan Gattis. So the possibility of adding another outfielder to the mix is not so farfetched. And one outfielder, in particular, does come to mind that would strengthen the Astros already athletic outfield: Justin Upton.

Why Justin Upton?

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Even without Upton or Rasmus in 2016, the Astros already boast one of the top defensive outfields in baseball with Carlos Gomez, George Springer, and Marisnick. Gattis and Tucker should continue to receive some time in left field due to various lineup configurations. However, there would be a noticeable drop off regarding defense any time they replace any of the previously mentioned outfielders. This is where an athletic outfielder like Upton would come in handy as he is a defensive upgrade over Gattis and Tucker while offering a more consistent bat than Marisnick. Best of two worlds, right?

Upton’s work with the bat, however, will be the primary draw not only for the Astros but also every organization interested in the 28-year old outfielder. Since 2013, Upton has averaged close to 27 home runs and 84 RBI per season. Over that span, he has also averaged a 128 wRC+ and a 3.5 WAR. Another draw for Upton could be the possibility of playing half of his games at Minute Maid Park, which is a better place for hitters than his 2015 home in Petco Park.

It wasn’t surprising that his HR/FB rate fell from 17.9% in 2013-14 with the Atlanta Braves to 15.2% with the Padres in 2015. And consider this: he only topped 17.9% once for his career when he played in Arizona from 2007-12. So it isn’t outlandish to believe that his home run numbers would improve in a more hitter friendly ballpark. After all, this is Crush City!

However, adding Upton is contingent on two factors: 1. His willingness to sign with Houston. 2. Astros owner Jim Crane’s budget for the front office going into the 2016 season.

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So say if factor number one is met with no issues. Upton lets his people know to tell Houston that he interested for the right price. The ball is now in the Astros court. Of course, this is a huge assumption at this point. However, if the scenario unfolded like that, it is very well possible that Crane is fine with giving Upton a significant contract to bring his talents to southeast Texas.

Hey, the Astros did make it to the postseason and played a competitive series with the World Series champs. The talent is here for the long-term. You also add an insurance policy in the outfield just in case the Carlos Gomez doesn’t pan out in Houston beyond 2016. Adding Upton would really put an exclamation point on the rebuilt Astros and be further evidence that the organization is committed to contending for championships.

Next: Why say no to Justin Upton