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Acquisition of Justin Upton completes Braves' talented outfield

The SportsXchange

The Braves likely will never be able to match of the production of their first Atlanta outfield, which featured Hank Aaron, Felipe Alou and Rico Carter in 1966. However, their new trio of Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers may someday make its mark as well.

Two months after signing center fielder B.J. Upton away from the Tampa Bay Rays as a free agent, the Braves acquired younger brother Justin Upton in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.

With Heyward set in right field after a Gold Glove season, Justin Upton will move over to left field and supply a potent right-handed bat to balance what had been a lefty-dominated lineup until general manager Frank Wren made his big offseason moves.

Wren's goal was to make the team manager Fredi Gonzalez could put on the field younger and more athletic. Mission accomplished. B.J. is 28, Justin 25 and Heyward 23. All are potential five-tool players.

To get a second Upton, the Braves had to part with outfielder/infielder Martin Prado. The Braves had not been able to come to a long-term deal with Prado, who filed for salary arbitration, and he would have been a free agent after this season.

Right-hander Randall Delgado and three minor-leaguers, shortstop Nick Ahmed, right-hander Zeke Spruill and first baseman Brandon Drury, went to the Diamondbacks along with Prado. The Braves received third baseman Chris Johnson in addition to Upton.

Johnson, 28, hit .281 with 15 homers and 76 RBI for the Diamondbacks and Astros in 2012. He likely will share time with Juan Francisco this season in a platoon arrangement, replacing retired third baseman Chipper Jones.

In Heyward and the two Uptons, the Braves now have a young outfield that can cover plenty of ground in addition to providing power and speed. The trio combined for 74 homers and 75 stolen bases in 2012.

Justin Upton, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, was bothered by a thumb injury in 2012, but he still hit .280 with 17 homers, 67 RBI and 18 steals. The year before, he batted .289 with 31 homers, 88 RBI and 21 steals, and he finished fourth in the National League MVP voting.

Justin Upton is owed $38.5 million for 2013-15 in the final three seasons of a long-term deal. B.J. Upton received a five-year contract worth $75.25 million from the Braves.

Wren had room to add Justin Upton's salary for this year even without including Prado, who was asking for $7.05 million in arbitration, in the trade. However, locking up Prado in a long-term deal would have been an issue.
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