The Braves Wisely Double Down on Uptons
In what is quickly becoming one of the wildest off-seasons in memory, the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have agreed on a seven player swap. Atlanta will add their second Upton brother this offseason, Justin, while also picking up 3rd baseman Chris Johnson. In return the Diamondbacks are getting Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and a host of minor league talent. This trade has the potential to work out beautifully for both ball clubs. Arizona has, for some odd reason, been trying to trade the hyper-talented Upton for the better part of the last two years, trying to stake out the best deal. Well it appears GM Kevin Towers has finally found his elusive match, and he may have gotten the short end of the stick. On a more positive note, he also found his starting 3rd baseman and a nice collection of young talent as well, but it’s harder to judge his return in this deal until the youngsters involved acquire more seasoning. Instead, let’s take a look at what the deal does for the Braves.
Atlanta’s role in today’s deal was a bit of a no-brainer, especially considering their movements earlier this winter. When Braves GM Frank Wren signed BJ Upton for $75 million it made a good deal of sense to speculate about Atlanta’s interest in his brother. Now that this deal with Arizona has come to fruition it’s worth questioning just how good this outfield the Braves have assembled can be.
With the Upton boys joining right fielder Jason Heyward, the Braves now possess a trio of talented, young outfielders that’s as good as any in baseball. Last year these three players combined to hit 72 homers, and that’s with Justin having a down year thanks to an injured wrist. If he hits at all like he did when he was a top-5 finisher for the MVP award in 2011, the Braves could have upwards of 90 homers on their hands in the outfield. They also combined to steal 70 bags, a total that could rise if Freddi Gonzalez decides to give the green light more often. That kind of power and speed in the outfield is unmatched in the National League, and only the talent the Angels have can give the Braves a run for the money out of the AL teams.
These guys aren’t slouches on defense either. Despite his occasional lack of focus, BJ Upton has been a mostly top-notch centerfielder during his time in the Major Leagues. He’s got 50 steal speed which he puts to good use in tracking down fly balls that would otherwise drop in for doubles, and his arm strength is a plus. Upton has frequently ranked among the top AL outfielders in assists in every year that he’s been healthy as a pro. We all know what Heyward can do in the outfield, and the base runners who don’t are going to get cut down again this season. His arm’s as strong as a Howitzer. Justin Upton will now move over to left field where his arm strength and range will go a long way in replacing the skills lost by the departed Martin Prado, who was an excellent defender.
This move has the potential to pay off big time in the long term for the Braves as well. Justin Upton’s only 25 years old right now and he doesn’t reach free agency for another 3 seasons, which leaves plenty of room for growth. Having both Uptons on the team should also bode well for their individual morale. In addition to having the Upton bros locked up for the next 3 years minimum, the Braves also have 23-year-old Jason Heyward, 23-year-old Freddie Freeman, and 23-year-old defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons locked up for the long-term, giving the Braves a solid 3 year window to win a title. With their ample pitching depth at both the Major League and minor league levels, the Braves have a very enviable core to build from. Watching them duke it out with Washington for National League supremacy in 2013 and the subsequent years is going to be a treat.