Addition by Subtraction
Trading Kole Calhoun is the easy option to be quiet honest. You can send him to a competing team as a platoon right fielder and DH or even as a starter depending on who the trade target is, but likely the return won’t be anything overwhelming. On the other hand if the Angels are all about improving the state of the club going into 2020 not only is keeping Kole Calhoun a vital piece of that gameplan, trading Justin Upton may be just as valuable a move. How is that so you ask?
Simple addition by subtraction. No Upton means more Jo Adell come 2020.
Justin Upton is worth negative defensive runs saved in left field whereas Kole Calhoun provides positive value in right field. The differences between the two are almost night and day; Calhoun makes the hard plays to save games whereas Justin Upton has shown to miss the easy plays and put extra pressure on the rest of the Angels staff time and time again.
It isn’t about Upton being “lazy” like some Angel fans might say, the fact of the matter is he is not that good. People like to say that the Angels have had no good left fielders in a long time therefore we can’t complain about Upton, but really he is not providing much positive value for the Angel in left field and has shown mediocre power (.417 SLG% in 103 AB’s).
The Stockholm Syndrome is strong with some; just because we’ve dealt with mediocrity in the past doesn’t mean we have to accept it now because this mediocrity swings the bat a little harder.
That can all change with a couple strong weeks from Upton, but to this point we’re just seeing his level of play getting worse and worse in all forms. His defense is legitimately bad, his offense leaves so much to be desired from a $100 million dollar man and is on field leadership is almost non-existent. The differences between Calhoun and Upton are so massive it could fill the Grand Canyon; when the Angels need Upton to show up he shrinks whereas Calhoun steps up time and time again. With RISP we’re seeing Upton kill the Angels with his terrible .172/.297/.310 slash line in 29 AB’s while Calhoun is hitting .259/.380/.506 (81 AB’s) in the same situations.
Even with just a man on first we’re seeing Upton fail to offer production equal to his contract worth whereas Calhoun earns every penny wherever he can. In that specific situation (man on first) Upton is hitting .250/.348/.300 in 20 AB’s whereas Calhoun hits .305/.328/.610 in that same exact situation (59 AB’s). That isn’t even with RISP, that’s just with a lone runner on first base and Upton still produces at a barely average level.
Justin Upton is as big a rally killer as they come and you honestly don’t even have to look deep into the stats to see that, he can’t hit with RISP, he can’t hit with bases empty. You can eyeball how bad he is at the plate and the outfield when Angels need him most, and on the other hand it’s easier to see the value Calhoun brings when he literally wins games for us with his play.
In statistically “High Leverage” situations (quantified by situations in which a lead can be directly affected by the AB) Justin Upton hits just .071/.263/.071. The biggest issue in trading Upton is his big contract which may prohibit a trade to a contender unless the Angels are willing to pay some of the salary.