Could Justin Upton be headed back to the NL West?

Dec 17, 2014, 1:07 AM | Updated: 4:31 pm

Justin Upton left the National League West nearly two years ago in a blockbuster trade between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves.

The D-backs have had to face him 12 times since they traded him east and the outfielder has torched his former team, batting .357 with three home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.110 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

And in 2015, the D-backs may have to face Upton more than just six times a year, as the 27-year-old may well be traded to a team within Arizona’s division.

The San Diego Padres have often been linked to interest in Upton, who last year won his second Silver Slugger award after hitting 29 home runs and 102 RBI to go along with a .270 batting average.

In fact, in a recent Insider story for ESPN, Jim Bowden pinned San Diego as the most likely destination for Upton, who seems to be on the Braves’ trading block.

Bowden explains why the Padres may hold interest in Upton.

Padres rookie GM A.J. Preller is focused on improving the Padres’ lineup for 2015 and is off to a great start in landing Kemp. Now he’s looking to add lineup protection for Kemp so teams don’t pitch around the right-handed slugger. One of his targets, of course, is Upton, who would be a perfect fit with Kemp in San Diego. The Padres have a strong rotation led by Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy and their bullpen is one of the best in the National League, as demonstrated by their 60-1 record when leading after seven innings in 2014.

And another team in the division, the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, are also mentioned as potential suitors for Upton on Bowden’s list. The baseball insider sees the Giants as the fifth most likely destination for Upton, who is entering his ninth season in the majors.

The Giants already have lost out on Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester and Melky Cabrera, and although free agent James Shields is their priority right now, there’s no doubt they’d love to get another middle-of-the-order bat to replace Sandoval.

As far as stadiums go, Upton has fared much better at Petco Park in San Diego than he has at the Giants’ AT&T Park in San Francisco. At Petco, he has batted .291 with a .900 OPS in 46 games, but in San Francisco, his batting average is just .226 while his OPS is a much lower .662.

At Chase Field, meanwhile, Upton has a career .308 batting average, which pairs nicely with a .942 OPS and 69 home runs in 1319 at-bats — about one in every 19.

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