COMMENTARY | Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
This old adage had to be running through the mind of GM Frank Wren when the Texas Rangers called to try and acquire Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves at the July 31 trading deadline.
The Braves and Rangers have something of an untenable trading history thanks to the infamous Mark Teixeira deal in 2007 in which Atlanta traded away future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz, along with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones, for a first baseman that was gone within a calendar year.
So what exactly here the Rangers offering this time for Atlanta's 26-year-old power hitter that they themselves had traded for only four months prior? According to a recent USA Today report by Bob Nightengale, Texas was ready to package right-handed starter Matt Garza, 38-year-old closer Joe Nathan and platoon outfielder David Murphy. Shockingly, Atlanta did not acquiesce to its trade demands.
The immediate reaction by Atlanta fans would have to be a hard no. Then again, if the Rangers agreed to take back B.J. Upton as well, who knows?
What the Braves Would Have Given Up
Had this deal been offered in April, Atlanta would have demanded a king's ransom for Upton, and then still laughed the Rangers off the phone. However, after Upton hit a franchise-record 12 home runs during the first month of the season, his production took a very noticeable swan dive.
Upton would hit just .218 with three homers over the next two months of the season.
But Texas tried to acquire Upton on July 31, so in order to evaluate this deal we have to look at what he has given the Braves since the potential trade would have been made. Since July 31, Upton has hit .269 with 10 home runs and 19 RBIs. Of course, Upton did also strike out 46 times in 156 at-bats and had a 19-game RBI drought as one of Atlanta's most depended run producers.
Atlanta would have been able to get out from under the $29 million still owed to him over the next two seasons, but that isn't the Upton contract it would love to clear.
What the Braves Would Have Gotten in Return
On paper, it doesn't see as though the Braves would have really been given anyone they actually needed. Garza is a nice veteran pitcher, but would he really have made the rotation any better? In the 10 starts he has made with the Rangers since July 31, Garza has gone 3-5 with a 7.24 ERA. The Braves are very flush at starting pitcher, with Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Alex Wood all sporting ERAs under 3.30.
Joe Nathan would have been the piece with the next highest value. His 1.51 ERA and 40 saves cannot be discounted, but Atlanta's bullpen already features the best young closer in the game today in the person of Craig Kimbrel. Being able to turn to another power arm with closer's stuff late in games would be nice, but the Braves already have the best bullpen in baseball without Nathan (2.46 ERA).
The final piece of the deal was former New York Mets prospect David Murphy. The Rangers' left fielder has hit .214 with two home runs and 11 RBIs since July 31. Had the Braves completed this deal, he would have been buried on the bench while Evan Gattis became an everyday outfielder.
It's clear that, while Upton has had his ups and downs this season, he is still much more valuable to the Braves than any player they would have been provided from this deal. The biggest value Atlanta would have received from this trade would have come in the form of three expiring contracts that the Braves could have cleared before offseason free agency.
Seeing as how Atlanta just earned its first division title since 2005 and is currently leading the pack for the best record in the National League, it is safe to say the Braves made the right choice rejecting this deal.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.