Justin Upton is joining his brother B.J. in the Atlanta Braves' outfield. PHOTO: Reuters
The Atlanta Braves wild offseason just saw them acquire the second Upton brother: Justin Upton is joining his brother B.J. (who signed with the Braves in November) in the Atlanta outfield. Heading back to the Arizona Diamonbacks is a more than respectable haul of major leaguers and prospects: infielder Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado, and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill. Atlanta also gets third baseman Chris Johnson in the deal.
The trade ends months (years really) of speculation about when and where Upton would go. After Upton rejected a trade to the Seattle Mariners earlier this month, it became clear that Arizona could not go into the season with Justin Upton on their roster, as the distraction of the trade rumors and Upton's widely reported discontent were already a huge distraction. Now, he joins his brother on a formidable team to see if he can recapture his 2011 form when he was one of the best players in baseball.
Justin Upton gets on base at a consistently above-average rate with OBPs of .366, .356, .369 and .355 the last four years, so we know what to expect from him there. What's fluctuated are his power numbers. He hit 26 and 31 homers in 2009 and 2011, and 17 homers in 2010 and 2012, with his slugging percentage making corresponding jumps. If the Braves are getting odd-number year Justin Upton, this is a huge trade. If he's even-number year Justin Upton, it's a defensible, but not great move.
The Diamondbacks come out of this with a nice mix of players who will start for them next year and players who will spend more time in the minors. Martin Prado, a versatile infielder, quietly put up an excellent season last year, and was actually more valuable than Justin Upton. However, it would be optimistic to expect that production consistently, which is why there are other players in this deal. Randall Delgado, a 22 year-old pitcher, got his first taste of the big leagues last year, starting 17 games with middling success. He throws a fastball, curve and changeup, the latter two need development for Delgado to be a solid 3rd or 4th starter.
Spruill and Ahmed are ranked 9th and 11th respectively among Braves prospects by Fangraphs. Drury does not make the top 15. Both should contribute at the major league level, possibly as soon as this year, but neither are so talented to swing this deal in Arizona's favor. While the Diamondbacks got a decent haul for Justin Upton, they didn't get the sort of impact talent one would hope for a player of Upton's caliber. Still, there is always the chance that Prado matches Upton's performance.
As for the Braves, they are now positioned to be an N.L. East powerhouse for years to come with their outfield of Upton, Upton and Heyward and Andrleton Simmons and Freddie Freeman keeping the youth movement going in the infield. I think they are still a tick behind the Nationals going into the season, but they rank among the best teams in baseball, and probably will for at least another year or two.