The Upton brothers are getting their wish to play on the same team again. And this isn't the AAU or high school. We're talking about the Atlanta Braves.
After many months of trying, Arizona Diamondbacks traded Justin Upton on Thursday, sending him and Chris Johnson to the Braves for utility man extraordinaire Martin Prado, along with prospects Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed and Zeke Spruill. The trade puts Justin Upton in the same outfield as B.J. Upton, who signed a free agent contract with the Braves earlier in the offseason, presumably to play center.
The trade, which is contingent on everyone in it passing a physical, was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Justin Upton had used his no-trade clause to nix a recent deal to the Mariners, and his saga seemed to drag on forever. He was holding out for a brotherly reunion. In the days before the deal, B.J. Upton expressed excitement for the possibility on Twitter:
Wow these @jus10up10 rumors have me excited. Please don't tease me like this... Would be a dream come true if it happens
— BJ Upton (@BJUPTON2) January 23, 2013
Don't tease him, bro! Not about his bro! No more tease, Beej. This is real.
What makes this trade hard to figure is why the D-backs wanted to trade Upton, who won't be a free agent until 2016. Until we know why they soured on him (and it's been obvious for months that GM Kevin Towers had soured on him), evaluating the deal is almost impossible. Prado seems like a good get in return for Arizona, and a tough loss for the Braves — especially with third baseman Chipper Jones retiring. Prado might be just as valuable as Upton in 2013 — just before he hits the free agent market. (Unless the D-backs extend his contract.) And count on Towers doing his homework on the minor leaguers coming his way. Delgado was a top prospect before Tommy John surgery. But many have proven able to come back from that. Towers certainly is acquiring a lot of starting pitching.
And it does give the Braves a formidable-looking starting lineup.
So, for the moment, let's just get caught up in two talented brothers, in their prime, playing in the same outfield. By my count of Baseball Almanac's work, the Uptons will be the 101st brotherly pairing in modern major league history. The most recent ones include Scott Hairston and Jerry Hairston with the Padres in 2010, and Andy LaRoche with Adam LaRoche with the Pirates in 2008. Sometimes brothers playing together is just a gimmick, a publicity stunt or a favor. But the Uptons being together shape up as something special.
Justin Upton is 25 years old and coming off a down season in which he hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 628 plate appearances. He's capable of much more, producing a 31-homer season in a career-best 2011 season. B.J. Upton, 28, also has been something of an enigma since his first full season in the majors in 2007, which by far has been his best. B.J. Upton batted .246/.298/.454 with 28 home runs and 31 stolen bases in 2012. Not bad, but he also can do (and has done) better.
This is (I think) the first time they've played on the same team since 2000, when they were on the same "fall showcase" team from Virginia Beach, Va. As Sports Illustrated reported, that club included the Uptons, David Wright, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Zimmerman. Nice place to play ball, Virginia Beach!
It's impossible to count on the Uptons "making each other better" by playing on the same team, yet we probably shouldn't be surprised if this somehow happens. Mostly because both players are at the age when ballplayers usually do their best.
It's just too bad the third Upton brother, supermodel Kate Upton, is not actually their brother or a baseball player. Otherwise, the Braves would be under serious pressure to acquire her as well in order to create an updated version of the Felipe Alou, Matty Alou and Jesus Alou outfield, which played for the 1963 San Francisco Giants.