The Atlanta Braves have already brought in one Upton brother this offseason. Why not make it two?
Frank Wren made team history by signing B.J. Upton back in November to a franchise record five-year, $75 million contract to play the outfield and (hopefully) hit for a nice combination of average and power.
Like his brother B.J., Arizona’s Justin Upton runs well, hits for power and does it from the right side of the plate, making him an attractive option to plug the hole that now exists in left field for the Braves. He could hit in the middle of the lineup or fill an important void in the leadoff spot (left vacant with the departure of Michael Bourn).
When you look at how crowded Arizona’s outfield has gotten this off-season, it would make sense for Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to strike a deal sometime between now and the end of Spring Training. With Upton, Jason Kubel, Geraldo Parra, newly-signed Cody Ross and up-and-coming prospects Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock, the D-Backs have quite a logjam going on, and fixing that in exchange for players that could help in other areas makes a great deal of sense.
That said, Towers doesn’t seem overly pressed to deal Justin, who is signed to a long-term contract. And, of course, the less motivated he is to deal the younger of the Upton brothers, the higher the price will remain.
Upton has a limited no-trade clause, meaning he can veto any potential trade to four teams. Atlanta is not on his list of no-trade destinations. Seattle, however, is. So while Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik was able to persuade Kevin Towers last week that Just Upton should dawn an M’s uniform, Justin was not convinced and vetoed the deal.
Not only are the Braves not on Upton’s no-trade list, but they are likely atop his wish list of possible destinations. With the opportunity to play for a good (potentially great) team alongside his brother, there are few–if any–better scenarios out there for Justin Upton.
Again though, Towers is far from desperate to trade Upton, so he can afford to wait for the right deal to come along; one that provides Arizona with a return similar to the package offered by the Mariners.
Seattle’s offer included three of their top six prospects, including Taijuan Walker—one of the absolute best prospects in the game today. Additionally, they tossed reliever Charlie Furbish, who posted a 2.72 ERA in 46 1/3 innings last season.
So who gets shipped off in this hypothetical Upton-to-Atlanta trade scenario? Two names that come to mind immediately are Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado; one of them would almost surely have to be involved in this deal. Since Atlanta appears unwilling to part with shortstop Andrelton Simmons, young SS Nick Ahmed could be part of it as well.
Teheran/Delgado + Ahmed wouldn’t be enough, though. Towers would definitely be interested in at least one or two more pieces: either an additional prospect or a player on the MLB roster. Then the D-Backs will likely look towards the Braves bullpen, which was bolstered with the recent acquisition of Jordan Walden. Arizona might focus on one of the Braves’ lefties… probably Johnny Venters (given Eric O’Flaherty’s 4.3 mil salary and looming free agency).
With Walden in tow, it wouldn’t be devastating to lose Venters, but giving up too much pitching would be a dangerous move for the Braves to make. Over the past two years, we’ve seen season-ending and even career altering injuries to members of Atlanta’s pitching staff, reminding us once again that you can never have too much pitching.
If Frank Wren is so inclined, he can put together the kind of trade proposal to make this happen—if not now, in the near future. But would Justin Upton’s presence be worth a large sacrifice?
Upton certainly has all the tools of an impact player. However his home/road splits are alarming. Over the past 3 seasons, Upton has put up the following numbers at home: (781 at-bats) .311 avg, .392 OBP, .536 SLG, .928 OPS. Pretty impressive.
BUT… here are his numbers away from Chase Field over the past 3 years: .253 avg, .331 OBP, .408 SLG, .739 OPS.
In the end, it will come down to Wren’s willingness to part with a significant amount of his farm system. So far, in his tenure as GM, he’s been reluctant to mortgage the club’s future for an immediate payoff.
After all, the last time the Braves made a move like that (when John Schuerholz was GM), they shipped Netfali Feliz, Jerrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones to Texas for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. And, well, we remember how that turned out, don’t we?
Andrew Hirsh is a freelance sportswriter. Follow him on Twitter: @andrewhirsh
Here’s B.J.’s take a potential trade for his brother…