January 24, 2013 at 11:18 am by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
Our long Braves Nation nightmare is now over. The Braves acquired Justin Upton along with Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury. Giving up Prado is obviously the downer in the deal, but if he wasn’t or couldn’t be signed to an extension, he was only in Atlanta for another season, while Upton is here for 3 seasons.
Looking from the Braves’ perspective, they don’t get a whole lot better in 2013, but they get considerably better moving forward. Both Prado and Upton are 4-5 win players, but while that’s probably Prado’s ceiling, Upton could be quite a bit better, possibly MVP-caliber. This gives the Braves a slight edge in 2013, but it isn’t likely to make a significant difference for the next season. Moving forward, this gives the Braves another 4-5 win player for two additional seasons at a total cost of $38.5M for all 3, a bargain for someone of Upton’s caliber, along with keeping the better pitching prospect in Julio Teheran (and JR Graham and Sean Gilmartin). Regarding Johnson, he’s another 3B option, and he can be the starter, part starter as a member of a Francisco platoon, or primary bench player. He’s not a lefty masher, but he’s better than Francisco against lefties. He’s signed for $2.88M as a Super Two and is under control through the 2016 season.
For the Diamondbacks, this rearranges assets for 2013 and thickens out the farm system. With the signing of Cody Ross, the DBacks had 5 outfielders – Upton, Ross, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and Adam Eaton – and with obviously no way to get them all in, this essentially moves the 4-5 win player to 3B. The problem for them is that they give up significant future value because Prado may leave at the end of the season. Gaining some of that value back, the DBacks also acquired Delgado, Ahmed, Spruill, and Drury. Delgado will have to battle to get into a rotation that already has Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Tyler Skaggs, and Daniel Hudson coming back from Tommy John at some point in the season, so he may or may not add value to the team anytime soon, though he could be flipped elsewhere. Ahmed becomes a future 2B or 3B option as the DBacks already have Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, and Chris Owings in the organization, and Ahmed is more likely to fill in a position vacated by either Aaron Hill or Martin Prado, though the DBacks also have 3B prospect Matt Davidson coming close to the majors. Spruill is more pitching depth, and considering the depth and higher-ceiling prospects in the organization, he’s probably trade bait for them as well. Drury was the final piece, and while he has some offensive upside, he may be 1B by the time all is said and done, which means he’ll have to hit a lot to be of much value. All told, the DBacks rearrange some assets for 2013, not a terrible decision given what they had (though one could certainly ask whether they should have been in that situation to begin with), and forego quite a bit of future value for the sake of minor-league depth. This seems to indicate a future trade as the DBacks have built up curious depth in starting pitching and shortstop.
Although this trade involved Prado (a bummer), the Braves are at least as good as they were before for 2013 and possibly a tiny bit better, but it puts the future of the MLB team in much better shape. Trading Delgado, Ahmed, Spruill, and Drury was basically trading away areas of depth, and the team kept Julio Teheran, who has a higher ceiling than all of them, along with Sean Gilmartin, the next closest pitcher in MLB-readiness, and JR Graham, a high-upside arm whose role is still undetermined. As far as the payroll goes, the trade leaves the Braves with about $5M, which gives the team flexibility to get a better bench option (Kelly Johnson?) or have payroll flexibility for a deadline deal. You should be happy about this Braves’ fans. Now let’s hope for some extensions.
(Below is an updated salary projection)