As speculation mounts that San Diego general manager A.J. Preller is about to trade some big-name talent in response to the team's disappointing play, outfielder Justin Upton said he hopes the Padres can perform well enough coming out of the All-Star break to change Preller's mind.
"At this point, I haven't given up on the team,'' Upton said this week in Cincinnati, where he was a member of the National League All-Star team. "I really like the guys, and I like the clubhouse. We still have some time to change the minds of the front office. In a perfect world, we play well over the next two or three weeks and A.J. pumps the brakes on dismantling the team.''
The Padres were expected to contend in the NL West after Preller made a flurry of offseason acquisitions. But they sit fourth in the division with a 41-49 record and are 10 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers and 7½ out from a wild-card spot.
The Padres fired manager Bud Black on June 15 when they were 32-33. They've since gone 9-16 under interim manager Pat Murphy.
In recent weeks, Upton and fellow outfielder Will Venable, relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, and right-hander Ian Kennedy have been among the veteran Padres players mentioned as possible trade candidates. Earlier this week, Peter Gammons tweeted that Preller also is gauging interest in right-hander James Shields, who signed a four-year, $75 million deal with San Diego in February.
Upton, 27, has a .753 OPS and 14 home runs in 87 games this season. He's immersed in a 4-for-41 slump that's dropped his batting average from .276 to .253 since late June.
"Once you've been traded, it becomes easier,'' Upton said. "Obviously you don't ever want to leave a team you enjoy being on, but you start to understand it's a part of game. The game is the same any place you go, so you have to be OK with it.''
As a three-time All-Star with 178 home runs and an .824 OPS in his career, Upton can expect to receive a big payday on the free-agent market this winter. He's trying to balance the pressure of producing in his "walk'' year with the desire to play in a postseason as a member of the Padres.
"Being a free agent, all that means is that you've hung around and played well enough to have that right,'' said Upton, whose brother, Melvin Upton Jr., also is on the Padres. "It's something that's exciting, but it hasn't affected me at all.
"I got kind of lucky. I got thrown into the horrible city of San Diego, so it's been rough,'' Upton added, laughing. "I'm just enjoying my time there. Being a part of that team has been fun.''
"It's been frustrating at times, but guys haven't rolled over,'' Upton said. "Talentwise, I think we're still capable of being in the hunt at some point. But we've got to play better. That's just being realistic. We've shown flashes, but we haven't played as well as we can.''