Ever since B.J. Upton signed a 5-year, $75.25 million deal to become the Braves center fielder there was a glance over to left field in Atlanta and who would fill that spot. The obvious choice was Upton’s brother, Justin, who was coming off a down year in 2012, but was still a MVP-candidate caliber player that had not yet entered his prime. The two brothers had been on the record saying that they would love to one day play with each other. After nearly two months of rumors, trade rejections, fans coming up with fake trades (sorry I tried to trade you Julio Teheran), and the refusal to trade Andrelton Simmons, the trade Braves fans hoped for, finally happened. The trade though did not look like a deal that any Braves fan expected. Let’s take a look!
Atlanta Braves receive: OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson
Arizona Diamondbacks receive: 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado and prospects RHP Zeke Spruill, SS Nick Ahmed, and 1B/3B Brandon Drury
Braves Country was worried about Andrelton Simmons being a part of a a deal for Upton for months, but in the end it was fan-favorite Martin Prado that makes his way to the desert. Prado was arguably Atlanta’s MVP in 2012, however they couldn’t come to an agreement for 2013, leaving just one-year left on Prado’s contract. That made him expendable in GM Frank Wren’s eyes as including Prado in the deal saved them from losing their top prospects in Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Sean Gilmartin, and Nick Gattis. Delgado would have been in contention for the 5th spot in the rotation with Teheran and would’ve become a crowded rotation with the impending return of Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery. You can never have enough pitching though.
What does Atlanta get in Justin Upton though? The younger version’s numbers dipped in 2012 after putting up a campaign in 2011 where he finished 4th for MVP and picked up his 1st Silver Slugger. Upton’s OPS dropped from .898 to .785, while his OPS+ went from a career-best 141 to a career-worst 107. A change of scenery was needed and what better place is there than playing along side his brother. There was a slightly contentious relationship between Upton and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson that made have played a part in the numbers drop. The new Braves outfield of Upton, Upton, and Jason Heyward will grow together over the next three years of team control. That’s really what made Justin Upton an attractive trade piece for the Braves, three years of team control vs. one year for Prado. If he returns to his 2011 form, the Braves will win this trade hands down.
Also included in the deal to Atlanta is Chris Johnson. Johnson may be called on to replace Chipper Jones at third base or at least platoon with Juan Francisco. Johnson is coming off a career-high in home runs and RBI’s. Playing for a winning team after spending 3.5 seasons in Houston and half of a season in Arizona might help Johnson continue to grow as he enters his age-28 season.
Arizona was clearly willing to part ways with Upton, but did they get the best deal possible? Prado is an All-Star caliber player and maybe they can come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The team leadership that Prado will bring to the clubhouse made him even an even more attractive piece for the Diamondbacks. The leadership factor is what turned them off of Justin Upton. Twenty two year-old Randall Delgado will battle to make the rotation this year (and probably succeed), but could turn into a front-of-the-line starter down the road. Delgado has a 3.95 ERA in 127.2 MLB innings. Zeke Spruill and Nick Ahmed are mid-level prospects, but were going to get backlogged in the Braves system at the starter and shortstop positions. Brandon Drury had a rough 2012, hitting only .229 in single A after crushing rookie ball. Arizona will hope the Braves have a repeat performance of the Mark Teixeira deal, in which they gave up Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Matt Harrison.
How do you think each team did in this offseason’s biggest blockbuster trade? Let me know what you think
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)