COMMENTARY | During the offseason, the Atlanta Braves made a huge splash by trading for Arizona Diamondbacks' slugger Justin Upton. Atlanta dealt away fan-favorite Martin Prado, along with right-hander Randall Delgado, pitching prospect Zeke Spruill, and minor league infielders Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury, in exchange for Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson.
Upton, along with offseason acquisition B.J. Upton, joined Jason Heyward in the Atlanta outfield for what many expected would be the most dynamic trio in all of baseball. At the halfway point in the season, let's stop to reexamine how this blockbuster trade has worked out for the Braves.
Atlanta's Side of the Deal
It's easy to point to Upton's struggles over the past two months and conclude that the Braves made a shortsighted decision to deal for the mercurial Arizona slugger. Upton has hit just .218 with three home runs and 18 RBIs since May 1. However, he was nearly single-handedly responsible for the Braves' red-hot start.
Upton crushed 12 home runs in April (a Braves' franchise record) and helped Atlanta start the season 12-1. Considering the Braves are just 36-33 since then, the 6 ½ game lead they currently enjoy in the division can be directly contributed to Upton's early-season play.
Atlanta also received a "throw-in" player named Chris Johnson. Despite being a footnote to the headline-grabbing Upton, Johnson has turned in a stellar first half of the season. His .323 average would be leading the team if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Johnson had been platooning time at third base with Juan Francisco to start the year, before Johnson's play made his base-mate expendable, setting the stage for the Braves to deal him to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Who Did the Diamondbacks Get?
The biggest name the Braves lost was 2010 All-Star Martin Prado. As the absolute definition of a super-utility player, Prado played everywhere for the Braves during his seven seasons in Atlanta. Although he hit .301 for the Braves last season, Prado has had a down year in the desert so far in 2013. He is hitting just .243 with six home runs and 26 RBIs. Still, his ability to hit for contact and play anywhere on the diamond is something the Brave undeniably miss.
And, can we just say: Thank God Atlanta chose to include Delgado instead of Julio Teheran in this deal. Teheran has been dominant this season for Atlanta as he has tallied a 6-4 record with a 3.12 ERA. And, despite a shaky first month of the season, Teheran has a been getting stronger with each start. He posted a sub-3.00 ERA in May, and currently has a 1.95 mark for June.
Although Delgado is still considered a strong major league pitching prospect, he has yet to translate his potential to the big league mound. He is 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA for Arizona in four appearances. It seems, for the moment, the Braves at least made the right choice between these two young hurlers.
As for the prospects included in this deal, Brandon Drury is still far from the big leagues, but, while playing for Class-A South Bend this season, he is hitting .313 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Zeke Spruill is 3-6 with a 3.12 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings for Class-AAA Reno.
Nick Ahmed is hitting just .192 with 3 home runs and 25 RBIs for Class-AA Mobile.
Did Atlanta Win the Trade?
Since both teams are currently in first place in their respective divisions, one could argue that they both made out well. However, there are other facets at play in this trade to consider. The Braves signed B.J. Upton, essentially to make sure Justin Upton would wave his no-trade clause for Atlanta. If this trade is not done, chance are the Braves may have looked to re-sign Michael Bourn instead of the Tampa Bay Rays' center field free agent. Does the eldest Upton's MLB-worst batting average (.177), or his landmark Braves' contract (5-years, $75.2 million) weigh the success or failure of this trade in either direction?
Strictly by the numbers, the Braves are winning the deal this season. Plus, they did theoretically get a franchise left-fielder, who is four years younger than Prado. Regardless of Upton's current slump, fans have to believe the Braves are in a better position with him than they would have been with Prado on this roster. The throw-in of Johnson to this trade certainly pushes the trade pendulum in the Braves' favor.
The real winner of this deal won't be known for quite some time. It all depends on who the minor league prospects turn out to be. It is also contingent on what the Braves are able to do in the short term. If the acquisition of Upton wins Atlanta another World Series title, then anything lost was well worth it. However, if the Upton brothers continue to struggle, and continue to be a drain on the Atlanta payroll, the Braves may still become the losers of this deal.
Now, if only the Braves can get the Diamondbacks to give Prado back in exchange for Dan Uggla. Then Atlanta could be called the definitive trade champion.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
- Sports & Recreation
- Justin Upton
- Atlanta Braves
- Martin Prado
- Arizona Diamondbacks