Skip to content

Notes and thoughts on the Justin Upton trade

Jan 24, 2013, 2:10 PM EDT

Martin Prado Getty Images

Braves acquire OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson from Diamondbacks for 3B Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, RHP Zeke Spruill, SS Nick Ahmed and 1B Brandon Drury.

- As some probably guessed, I’m a big fan of this deal for the Braves. I wrote an entry trying to pair the Upton brothers in Atlanta before the Braves had B.J. signed.

That said, I would have liked this deal a bit more two months ago, when the Braves would have had more flexibility to deal with the losses of Prado and Delgado. I still think it’s a great value trade, and I expect that the competitive Upton brothers could push one another to new heights. Prado is a very good player right now, but he was under control for just one more year and I don’t think he’ll live up to his next contract. I’ve never seen Delgado as much more than a No. 4 starter. None of the prospects are elite talents. I’m surprised the Diamondbacks didn’t insist on right-hander J.R. Graham in the deal.

- As for the Diamondbacks, well, there’s really been no plan from the beginning. They’ve now parted with two terrific young talents in Upton and Trevor Bauer and still haven’t set themselves up as obvious contenders for 2013.

Here’s a possible lineup:

CF Adam Eaton
3B Martin Prado
2B Aaron Hill
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Miguel Montero
RF Cody Ross
SS Didi Gregorius/Cliff Pennington

That’s certainly not bad. A rotation of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Delgado/Tyler Skaggs/Patrick Corbin is also pretty good.

Still, this is a team without a definite All-Star and it’s going up against a Dodgers club full of them and the defending world champs in San Francisco. Towers did add some nice minor league depth today, but he’s still given away arguably his two top talents and inflated the payroll, all for an 85-win, third-place team.

- The Diamondbacks just keep backing themselves into corners. It’s what forced them to trade Upton. And now it’s going to force them to give Prado a big extension, since there’s no way they’re going to let the key piece in the deal leave after one year.

Prado has hit .300 and topped a .350 OBP in three of his four full seasons in the bigs. I’ll be curious to see whether his terrific 69/58 K/BB ratio from last season holds up or if he reverts to previous form (86/40 K/BB in 2010, 52/34 in 129 games in 2011). A quality walk total will make the difference between him being an above average regular or an overpriced mediocrity in those seasons in which he hits .280 or so. And he will have those seasons after turning 30. The Diamondbacks are probably going to have to give him $30 million-$36 million for three seasons, and I have my doubts he’ll prove worth it.

A Prado extension would also cut off prospect Matt Davidson’s current path to the majors, though I don’t really see that as a problem. He projects better in left field than third base anyway. And if the Diamondbacks did want to leave him at third base, they could put Prado back in left field in 2014.

- This trade does leave the Braves lineup in a bit of a weird place. Prado was their only great option to bat first or second this season. Right now, we might be looking at:

SS Andrelton Simmons
CF B.J. Upton
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
3B Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson

With McCann set to miss at least the first few weeks following shoulder surgery, the third baseman will likely bat seventh, putting Gerald Laird in the eighth spot.

This arrangement will work out just fine if Simmons builds on his .289/.335/.416 line from his rookie campaign. I’m not sure the Braves can count on that, though.

And then there’s B.J. Upton, whose OPS went from .331 in 2011 to .298 last year. If he comes back in at .330 or so, he’d be an asset at the top of the order. If not, he’s a problem.

The Braves could always drop either Simmons or B.J. and simply move everyone else up a spot. I’d be good with Heyward batting second and Justin hitting third. I’m guessing that’s not how Fredi Gonzalez will want to play it, though.

- At third base, the current play should be to play Francisco versus righties and Johnson versus lefties. Johnson will get a chance to win the starting job outright, but I’m not a fan at all. He’s a poor defender, and while he does have pop, I doubt he’ll hit .281 again.

One potential problem with the platoon: the right-handed-hitting Johnson has actually performed much better against righties (.283/.323/.452 in 896 AB) than lefties (.255/.294/.372) in his career. Still, I think Francisco will outhit him against righties.

- Now that the Braves have question marks at the back of the rotation and at third base, they should be in contact with some free agents. Roy Oswalt and Javier Vazquez would make tons of sense as the new fifth starter. Vazquez would likely come cheaper, and Atlanta is about as close as he can get to his home in Puerto Rico. Of course, he pitched for the Braves in 2009 and went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA. Some other inexpensive possibilities: Carlos Zambrano, Carl Pavano, Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia and Chris Young.

For third base, it makes plenty of sense to check in with Scott Rolen and see if he has any interest in a part-time role. I’d take him over Johnson to pair with Francisco. And I know this won’t be very popular, but it’s worth offering Chone Figgins a minor league contract. The smart money says he’s done as a useful player at 35, but if he does have something left, he’d be a pretty great fit on a team with little speed, no obvious leadoff man and no plus defensive third basemen.

Latest Posts
  1. J.J. Hardy: Orioles’ lack of action on contract extension “just makes me curious”

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles

    J.J. Hardy thought extension talks with the Orioles would have already been underway, but the club has been silent on the matter.

  2. Ryan Howard missed hitting for the cycle due to a questionable scoring decision

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Ryan Howard Ryan Howard

    Ryan Howard is one of the more unlikely candidates to hit for the cycle, but he was one friendly scorer away from the achievement on Sunday against the Rockies.

  3. Play of the Day: Ian Kinsler scores after the Angels commit three errors on the same play

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT

    Ian Kinsler, Hank Conger Ian Kinsler, Hank Conger

    You’ll be seeing this play at the end of the season when the season’s wackiest plays are reviewed.

  4. Dexter Fowler has been getting help from Barry Bonds

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT

    Oh, nothing, just Dexter Fowler being coached by arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.

  5. Ryan Braun victimized Jason Grilli for the second game in a row

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

    Ryan Braun likes hitting in the state of Pennsylvania.

  6. Jeff Francoeur made a relief appearance for the El Paso Chihuahuas

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    Jeff Francoeur AP

    Jeff Francoeur is known for his arm, but who knew he’d be useful as a pitcher?

  7. Boston Marathon heroes remembered with pregame ceremony at Fenway Park

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    David Ortiz Getty Getty Images

    The Red Sox and Orioles teamed up for a touching tribute at Fenway Park on Sunday.

  8. Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT

    Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day Getty Images

    40-year-old Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday.

  9. Chipper Jones chimed in on the Carlos Gomez incident

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Chipper Jones is not a fan of Carlos Gomez.

  10. Clayton Kershaw throws three simulated innings, rehab assignment could be next

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

    clayton kershaw getty Getty Images

    Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a 51-pitch, three-inning simulated game on Sunday in Los Angeles and could soon be cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment.

  11. Tyler Lyons will take Joe Kelly’s rotation spot

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT

    tyler lyons getty Getty Images

    The Cardinals have decided on a fill-in for starting pitcher Joe Kelly, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring that he suffered Wednesday while trying to beat out a groundball. It’ll be 26-year-old lefty Tyler Lyons.

  12. Benches clear in Pittsburgh after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez bat flips a third-inning triple

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT

    carlos gomez getty Getty Images

    A pretty vicious brawl just went down at PNC Park after Carlos Gomez of the Brewers went into home run celebration mode after slugging a Gerrit Cole pitch to the top of the center field wall …

  13. Twins claim outfielder Sam Fuld off waivers from A’s

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

    sam fuld getty Getty Images

    As first relayed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have claimed outfielder Sam Fuld off waivers from the A’s. Fuld was designated for assignment by Oakland last Saturday.

  14. Cubs prospect Javier Baez back in action at AAA Iowa after missing one week with sore ankle

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

    javier baez getty AP

    MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Cubs top shortstop prospect Javier Baez is back in the lineup Sunday afternoon at Triple-A Iowa after missing a little over a week with soreness in his left ankle. He’ll serve as Iowa’s DH initially.

  15. Yankees activate Mark Teixeira from the disabled list

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    mark teixeira getty Getty Images

    Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is recovered from his Grade 1 right hamstring strain and is starting Sunday for the first time in over two weeks.

  16. Tigers release shortstop Alex Gonzalez

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    alex gonzalez getty Getty Images

    The Tigers acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles in late March after losing Jose Iglesias for the year and the veteran shortstop smacked a walkoff RBI single for Detroit on Opening Day. But he managed just three hits in 28 plate appearances after that and was officially released from the 25-man roster on Sunday.

  17. Kyle Farnsworth, 38, takes over as Mets’ closer

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    kyle farnsworth getty Getty Images

    Jose Valverde allowed three runs in an inning of work Saturday night against the Braves — the latest in a string of rough outings. So manager Terry Collins decided Sunday morning to make a change …

  18. Ivan Nova diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT

    ivan nova yankees getty Getty Images

    Yankees starter Ivan Nova has been diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow — an injury that almost always leads to Tommy John surgery.

  19. Craig Kimbrel struggles in return from right shoulder issue, apologizes for reaction to being pulled

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    kimbrel getty Getty Images

    Craig Kimbrel was called on Saturday for the first time since complaining of discomfort in his shoulder last Monday. The appearance did not go smoothly.

  20. VIDEO: Albert Pujols slugs his 498th career home run

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:37 AM EDT

    albert pujols getty Getty Images

    Watch as Angels first baseman Albert Pujols moved to within two home runs of the big 500-homer milestone on Saturday afternoon against Tigers closer Joe Nathan …

Featured video

This was 'the perfect baseball game'
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Springer (3861)
  2. I. Davis (2910)
  3. C. Kimbrel (2797)
  4. B. Harper (2739)
  5. M. Machado (2675)
  1. M. Cuddyer (2633)
  2. C. Granderson (2477)
  3. J. Chavez (2384)
  4. J. Reyes (2325)
  5. K. Calhoun (2223)