Martin Prado Worth More to Atlanta Braves Than Gaining Another Upton

While the Addition of Justin Upton Seemingly Makes the Atlanta Braves Legitimate Contenders in 2013, the Loss of Martin Prado Will Have More of an Impact on This Team Than People Think

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COMMENTARY | The blockbuster trade sending 25-year-old potential MVP candidate Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves will put an end to drawn out speculation and rumors surrounding the Arizona Diamondbacks potentially moving the talented outfielder.

After a trade to the Seattle Mariners was shot down I wrote that the Braves had a good chance of making a move for Upton. However, I did not foresee the Braves giving up one of the most valuable players on the roster in Martin Prado.

The prospects in the deal - Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury - will be missed, but none of them reign in comparison to the loss this team will feel when it opens camp without the versatile Prado.

Initial reaction

On paper this deal is a slam dunk win for the Braves. They were able to gain a perennial All-Star who is locked up for the next three years at an affordable price without having to give up some of its top prospects.

Then there is the fact Justin will be paired with his brother B.J. as well as Jason Heyward. These three will form one of the best -- if not the best -- outfields in all of baseball for the next three years. Each guy has the potential to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. This will undoubtedly be the top defensive outfield in the game.

The Braves hope the two Uptons will push each other to play better, thus elevating their game. They've both expressed publicly it has been a dream of theirs to play together. That dream has now become a reality and we'll see how well it turns out.

Questions arise

This question has been asked many times since the rumors started over a year ago about the possibility of the Diamondbacks trading Justin. Why would they want to get rid of a young stud outfielder who is under control for multiple years?

This question alone is scary and the fact is the Diamondbacks don't view Justin as the type of player they want on their team. He didn't display the hustle that was Diamondbacks' manger Kirk Gibson was looking for. Those are the same problems that arose when teams were deciding whether or not to sign his brother B.J.

Prado is exactly that kind of guy, which is why the Diamondbacks targeted him in this deal from day one, and according to Braves General Manager Frank Wren the deal wasn't going to get done without Prado being a part of it.

Personally, I think Justin was treated unfairly in Arizona and by all accounts he is a great player who loves baseball and wants to win. I don't think that's going to be an issue in Atlanta. But it is a bit worrisome that the Diamondbacks would so willingly give up such a rare talent.

Losing Prado hurts

When the rumors started heating up about the Braves potentially having a strong offer on the table for Upton I never once thought about Prado being part of that offer. My mind was imagining a lineup with Prado at the top and Justin in the middle; a lineup that would have essentially made them the favorite in the NL East and serious World Series contenders.

Losing Prado means more than just losing his versatility to play multiple positions or his .300 batting average. Prado was the hardest working player on this team. He displays all the intangibles you could ever want in a baseball player. He led by his actions instead of with his mouth. When Prado was in the lineup you knew you were going to get his best every single night.

With veterans like Chipper Jones, David Ross and Matt Diaz already gone from the clubhouse, losing Prado essentially takes out all the leadership on this team. Those guys I mentioned formed a great nucleolus that is needed during a long strenuous baseball season. Ross and Diaz aren't household names, but they're players that are necessary in a locker room to help keep the star players accountable.

Brian McCann and Tim Hudson are the only veterans left that can help this team stay loose, but both are on the last year of their contracts and will be more worried about playing for their future.

The Braves have done a great job of bringing in high character guys throughout the years, but bringing on the Upton brothers shows you that they're more worried about winning than creating the perfect clubhouse.

To be clear, this was a great trade for the future of the Braves. They hardly gave up anything and were able to acquire one of the best young outfielders in baseball.

As far as the 2013 season goes, I don't see this tipping the scale and making them contenders for the NL East or the World Series. The Washington Nationals are still viewed as the clear favorite, and the Braves still have a great shot of making the playoffs.

Realistically, the Braves essentially fixed one hole by gaining a left fielder, but created another hole at third.

The Braves did acquire third baseman Chris Johnson in the deal, but there has already been mention of him filling in as a platoon with Juan Francisco. Neither will be an everyday type player.

Watching the Upton brothers and Heyward roam the outfield together will be a great treat for Braves fans, but don't underestimate the impact Prado had on this club. Sabermetrics and advanced statistics don't account for all the things he brought to this team on and off the field.

Jake Mastroianni has written for several websites pertaining to the Braves and baseball in general. He also has experience working in media relations for minor league baseball, as well as at the collegiate level.

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