Is Justin Upton to the Braves inevitable?
Atlanta lying in the weeds some in J.Upton conversations. If they got him, they’d be assured of at least 3 years of Upton/Upton/Heyward OF.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 12, 2013
Baseball scribes seem increasingly convinced that the D’backs star will end up in Atlanta. I’ve been skeptical but am beginning to think that the Uptons will join the Aarons, Niekros, Torres, Mahlers and Drews as siblings and teammates on the Braves.
Justin Upton just turned down a deal that would’ve sent him to Seattle in exchange for a top pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, SS Nick Franklin, who projects as a Blauser-esque middle infielder, and relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor.
That’s a lot to give up for Upton, especially for a team like Seattle which is more than one player away from contending.
The Braves are contenders with only one Upton. Two Uptons could put them over the top. Plus, I don’t think they’d have to surrender as much as the Mariners offered (which equates to something along the lines of Teheran, Nick Ahmed, Juan Jaime and Luis Avilan).
Arizona is in a bind, having signed Cody Ross to join an already crowded outfield. They’ve been shopping Upton since last year’s All-Star break, so bringing him back would be problematic. And word that Texas has dropped out of the bidding leaves the D’Backs with few suitors.
The Braves could swing it financially, as Upton will make $9.75 million in 2013 (then $14.25 mil in ’14 and ’15, the same total and years Boston gave to Shane Victorino). That would leave zero wiggle room payroll-wise, though including Eric O’Flaherty, a free agent in 2014, in a deal would free up roughly $4 million. No doubt O’Flaherty would appeal to Arizona GM Kevin Towers, whose bullpen lacks a solid southpaw.
I’d hate to lose EOF, but he’ll be gone in a year anyway. And the Braves would still have Venters, Avilan and newly acquired Jordan Walden, who’s held lefties to a .202 BA in his career.
I’d offer Delgado, O’Flaherty and Ahmed and work from there. Considering the difference Upton would make for the 2013 Braves, I’d be prepared to give up more.
The former overall top draft pick battled nagging injuries in 2012, likely accounting for his decline in power. But not all was lost, as Upton showed better plate coverage, striking out 121 times in 150 games — a big improvement from 2010, when he was rung up 152 times in 133 games.
His home/road splits are troubling, though Arizona is not Colorado. Not sure what explains the disparity but I have a hard time believing Upton will never produce outside of Chase Field.
Best to remember we’re talking about a player one year removed from a 4th place finish in NL MVP balloting. It would surprise no one if the 25-year-old veteran finishes first in the near future.
Why not 2013, in Atlanta? It’s not as unlikely as we once thought.