What would it take for the Braves to land Justin Upton?
With the Major League Baseball offseason almost drawing to a close, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton is once again drawing a lot of interest.
As teams scramble for that last addition to feel comfortable with their opening day rosters, Upton seems to be quite the commodity. We’ve already seen what was pretty much a done deal between the Seattle Mariners and D-Backs to send Upton to the Northwest, but the budding superstar invoked his no-trade clause. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers is obviously willing to trade his prized bat and to his credit, he almost got a deal done that would’ve solidified his pitching staff with young arms for years to come.
However, Upton struck the deal down, leaving Towers looking for a new direction. Perhaps the Atlanta Braves? Earlier this offseason, Towers proposed a deal to Braves General Manager Frank Wren that would’ve sent Upton to Atlanta for defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons and maybe a pitching prospect. The price was too high for the Braves as they see Simmons’ glove as the next big thing in baseball. Rightfully so, Wren turned down the deal, yet recent trade talks between Atlanta and Arizona have heated up.
Most of the recent rumors are just that, rumors. Wren hasn’t publicly said his team is actively pursuing Upton, yet the interest is definitely there. That’s left the mouths of Braves fans watering. There’s no doubt adding a second Upton to an outfield that already includes his brother, B.J., and Jason Heyward would be an Atlanta fan’s dream. But what would it take to get that dynamic together in Turner Field?
Certainly, with Towers’ request of Simmons, the Diamondbacks want a lot in return. However, it’s a long shot that Wren is willing to part ways with the future of his team for one player like the Braves did a few years ago when they gave up a handful of their top prospects for Mark Teixeira. During that time, the Braves were in a serious playoff push and it seemed like the team was all in on an effort to make the World Series.
Fast forward a few seasons later and Atlanta seems like they should be even more desperate. The groundwork has been laid for this team to have success with the B.J. Upton signing. Bring in one more Upton and the Braves could be the favorite to win the National League East. After all, two early exits from the playoffs has left a bad taste in Atlanta’s mouth and fans are urning for a return to the actual playoffs.
I’m not saying a trade for Justin Upton would automatically punch the Braves’ ticket to the postseason, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Upton can return to his form of two years ago. The upside is tremendous. Atlanta would literally have the fastest outfield in all of baseball and its lineup would also be feared by the opposition — something the Braves haven’t had since the days of Fred McGriff and company. The problem is, Atlanta may have to bet the farm to get a deal done. They certainly have the pieces, but they don’t want yet another blockbuster trade to blow up in their faces.
The least the Braves would have to give up is two cream of the crop arms from their minor league system. I would speculate a possible trade would have to send either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado packing and then another young arm like Sean Gilmartin, Zeke Spruill or J.R. Graham, who are all projected to be in Atlanta’s starting rotation by next year. A couple of pitching prospects for Upton would be an Atlanta fan’s dream, but don’t expect the Diamondbacks to jump at that chance. Simply put, Arizona is going to want more.
So what else could the Braves possibly offer? Well, two of those aforementioned young hurlers and possibly a proven veteran like Paul Maholm or Tim Hudson. Both experienced starters were wonderful for Atlanta last year, but on the same token, both pitchers’ contracts are also up at the end of the year. Last season, it seemed like the Braves didn’t have enough room in their rotation for their surplus of pitching, so any trade that would relieve that “burden” would be a plus for the Braves for what they get in return.
I know Atlanta isn’t willing to risk their future, but when is the last time this team has ever been hurting for pitching? If anything, Atlanta desperately needs one more big bat and they have a huge gap in left field with Martin Prado, Reed Johnson and Juan Francisco expected to platoon between third base and Atlanta’s vacant corner outfield spot. It just seems like this trade is a necessity for the Braves. We all know Prado is very versatile, but swapping positions on almost a daily basis seems like it would ware on a player.
Basically, for the Braves, the time is now. They’ve already shown that they’re open to trading a young pitcher after last year’s deal for Ryan Dempster fell through. Frank Wren now just needs to pull the trigger and what a bang that gun would make if it produced Justin Upton for the next three years.