MelJu is fighting for a roster spot in Toronto as he enters the last year of the horrific 5-year, $75.25 million signed in 2012. The Braves, of course, unloaded that contract when they shipped Melvin to San Diego as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, a deal that essentially netted Matt Wisler and Austin Riley.
While the deal was applauded at the time, saving the Braves about $65 million (remember, John Hart took the expiring contracts of Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin), the Pads traded Kimbrel to Boston one year later for a package of young players highlighted by Manuel Margot, ranked among the top 25 prospects by Keith Law and MLB.com, and SS Javier Guerra, whose stock has dropped after an off-year in 2016. Margot, 22, hit .304 with a .356 OBP, 30 SB and 12 triples at Triple-A and is slated to open the year in CF for the Padres.
Had the Braves not tied Upton to Kimbrel, they could’ve gotten Margot. Yes, they’d still be saddled with Melvin’s contract but that money saved was misspent elsewhere.
Talent-wise, there’s no question Margot is more valuable than Riley and Wisler combined. Financially, the Braves would spend roughly the same amount of money owed Melvin in the trades that landed Hector Olivera, Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips and the free agent signing of R.A. Dickey.
How do Phillips and Dickey factor in this convoluted mess? They were acquired to plug holes at second and in the rotation, openings that could’ve been filled, less expensively, by Alex Wood and Jose Peraza, dealt in the Olivera fiasco.
It’s a tad convoluted, but, no matter how you slice it, choosing to attach Upton to Kimbrel cost the Braves talent — talent that likely would’ve offset the desperation that led to the front office to acquire Olivera.
An outfield of Markakis in LF, Margot in CF and Ender in RF would be an upgrade over the current alignment. What you’d lose in power you’d make up in speed, defense and youth with Margot and Peraza over Kemp and Phillips. Melvin would’ve been gone by now, one way or another.
Had they never signed Justin’s brother, the Braves would’ve retained the 29th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The Rays used that to draft Ryne Stanek, a pitcher now toiling in the minors. But they could’ve taken Aaron Judge, a right-handed power hitting prospect expected to start in RF for the Yankees this season.
What might’ve been.