Braves Acquire Justin Upton

The Diamondbacks have traded Justin Upton again. This time, he’s actually going away. After he rejected a deal to Seattle, they’ve found a new trade partner in the Atlanta Braves, and have crafted a pretty interesting deal that isn’t at all similar to the one they previously tried to make.

In exchange for Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson, the Diamondbacks reportedly are going to receive Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury. While they previously tried to trade him for a high risk/high reward pitching prospect and a middle infielder who is probably a year away from the big leagues, this trade doesn’t really make the Diamondbacks that much worse in 2013, and appears to be more of a win-now kind of trade.

With Prado, the Diamondbacks finally get the third baseman they’ve been looking for, and a pretty good one at that. No, he’s not going to repeat the +6 WAR season he put up last year, which was driven by an outlier UZR, but he’s got a nice base of skills that should allow him to remain an above average player. He makes a ton of contact and has some pull power that should play well in Arizona, and he’s probably at least an average defender at third base. In his career, Prado has averaged +3.4 WAR per 600 PA — exactly the same mark that ZIPS projected for Upton this year, by the way — and at age 29, he shouldn’t be in for a huge drop-off. The D’Backs probably get an equivalent upgrade at third base to the downgrade they’ll receive in the outfield, and then they also get some more pitching depth and three prospects of some value.

From just a 2013 perspective, this deal probably doesn’t move the needle that much. Both teams received one above average player, and no one else in the deal is likely to make a huge impact at the big league level this year. It’s the years after this one that will determine whether this trade was worth it for both sides.

Prado’s a free agent at the end of the season, and he’s not that different a player from Shane Victorino. Coming off a pretty poor season, Victorino just got 3/39 from the Red Sox. If Prado has a better walk year campaign, he could easily top that, especially considering that the market for available hitters next year is pretty weak. And, of course, if Arizona can’t re-sign him, then Prado simply represents a future draft pick in compensation, and the headliner in the deal becomes Randall Delgado, who is not exactly Taijuan Walker. Even with the extra value teams are placing on draft picks these days, the four prospects in the deal aren’t enough to justify trading away Justin Upton’s age 26 and 27 seasons. For Arizona, this deal likely hinges on re-signing Prado before he hits the free market.

Whether or not that’s possible, we won’t know for a while. But, Arizona’s a pretty nice place to hit, and by making this kind of move, the D’Backs are probably still going to put a good team on the field in 2013. Their pitching is deep and strong, and now they’ve filled their biggest weak spot on the field. Their outfield is now more of a collection of decent players than a huge strength, but their position players should be good enough to keep them competitive, and the pitching might be able to carry the day. The combination of a winning team and a nice ballpark to hit in could convince Prado to re-sign before hitting free agency, and if they can get him signed to a reasonable extension, then this will probably be a move worth making for Arizona.

The calculus is a little different for Atlanta. They almost certainly weren’t going to re-sign Prado after this season, so this is a choice of a three year asset over a guy they saw as a rental. And, it’s also an upside play, as Prado at his best still isn’t as good as Upton at his best, and Upton’s heading into his prime, rather than out of it. While ZIPS mean projection for Upton is +3.4 WAR for 2013, there’s still a decent chance he just goes off and has another +6 WAR season, turning into the superstar that most people believe he can become. With Upton, the Braves are buying upside and team control, and it’s not costing them pieces of their organization that were considered parts of the core going forward.

However, I’m not sure how much better this makes Atlanta in the short term. Prado was likely going to replace Chipper Jones at third base, but now they’re set to have 3B result in a Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson platoon of some sort, which isn’t exactly a stellar combination for a playoff contender. And, as Arizona found out this winter, there aren’t exactly a ton of available third baseman on the market, so turning around and making a follow-up trade to address that problem isn’t quite as simple as it might sound.

But, given the extra two years of team control and Upton’s potential for stardom, this is probably still a move worth making. They consolidated talent into one more valuable asset, and while it costs them depth in the process, mid-level prospects are easier to replace than high quality outfielders under team control through their age 27 season.

Overall, I expect that the sentiment on this trade is going to be mostly pro-Atlanta, as they get the big name player in exchange for an underrated high contact/gap power guy and a group of unexciting prospects, but I think this trade works for both sides. Arizona turns an outfielder into a third baseman, and given their depth at both positions, they’re probably not much worse off in the short term, plus they get some future value in the prospects to offset the chance of losing Prado after the season. Atlanta turns some pieces they didn’t necessarily see as foundational to their future into one big piece, and get to bet on both Uptons living up to their potential as teammates.

I don’t like how Arizona handled Upton’s situation over the last few years, and I don’t know that I agree with their desire to trade away a 25-year-old who is still one of the game’s best outfielders, but despite all the talk about the public nature of the rumors destroying his trade value, Arizona did okay here. They’ll probably come out on the short end of the stick if they can’t re-sign Prado, but now they get eight months to try, and they keep a competitive team together for the upcoming season as well.

Win-win trades aren’t that common in baseball anymore. From my perspective, this appears to be one of the rare instances where both teams made a good deal.

We hoped you liked reading Braves Acquire Justin Upton by Dave Cameron!

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Steve 1
Guest
Steve 1

I am a little sad seeing that Prado was my favorite player. And over the past three years Prado and Upton have been worth almost the exact same in terms of WAR.

But if Atlanta wasn’t willing or able to match his contract demands, it makes sense to trade 1 year of Prado and prospects for 3 years of Upton.

However if Upton doesn’t fulfill his ‘superstar’ status, it might be easily a loss for the Braves.

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

Atlanta’s beat writer said Prado was asking for $12mil AAV in free agency. That’s too much for a position like 3B that isn’t entirely too valuable. The only thing is, this probably means McCann stays, and his bat behind the plate isn’t exactly necessity, either.

I think it’s a good, not great, trade for the Braves. They get a baseline 3 WAR player for a likely ceiling 3 WAR player. I’m confused by Chris Johnson’s reverse split and their intentions on using him with Francisco, but if that platoon is used correctly, I think it will be a 2-3 win platoon, just a notch under where Prado is projected. That is all in relation to this year. Anything beyond, even a Prado extension, will probably just add value to the Braves’ side.

Let’s just hope Delgado/Spruill/Ahmed doesn’t turn out like Feliz/Harrison/Andrus.

Steve 1
Guest
Steve 1

Prado was worth almost 6 WAR last year, how is that a ‘ceiling 3 WAR player’.

And who cares what position he plays? Are you saying David Wright or Longoria aren’t valuable because they play 3rd?

ppabich
Guest
ppabich

Steve… Did you read the article or what? Cameron states, “No, he’s not going to repeat the +6 WAR season he put up last year, which was driven by an outlier UZR”

Steve 1
Guest
Steve 1

So? That doesn’t mean he’s a ‘3 WAR ceiling’. It’s clearly a 6 WAR ceiling with 3-4 WAR more likely.

KNew
Guest
KNew

Half of that 6 WAR was derived from UZR considering him an elite left fielder.

thistakesgumption
Guest
thistakesgumption

He’s already posted a >4 WAR season even with negative Fld…

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

10.7 runs saved as a LF equate to half of 6 WAR? I mean he was a +17 run hitter. That alone accounted for more of his value than his LF defense.

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

One >4 WAR season at 29? That’s cute. I’ll take the Upton. Oh, Justin, please.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

He’s got 2 4+ WAR seasons out of just 4 full seasons. He was also on pace for another in a third season but only played in 128 games. The other season was marred by a serious staph infection. It’s not unreasonable to think Prado’s true talent is somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0 WAR

ppabich
Guest
ppabich

What I was getting at, was that while to say that he is a 3 WAR ceiling is ridiculous, however to use last season’s WAR as a rebuttal is also incorrect.

The correct measure of his value has been pretty well covered above.

Oasis
Guest
Oasis

I hate that argument: their WAR over the last 3 years is about the same. Nice cherry picking of stats there dude. You convienently ignore the previous year, Justin’s first full year in the majors where his WAR was 50% higher than Prado’s (4.8 vs 3.2).

Prado is a slap hitting MI who’s value is completely dependent on his batting average and dubious at best defensive metrics. This is horrible trade.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

I like how you mention it was Upton’s first full year in the majors, but leave out the part where he had actually played significantly more games in the majors than Prado at that point. And you’re seriously going to knock Prado’s offensive game like that? He’s almost as good as Upton (111 to 116 in wRC+) and he’s less dependent on BABIP (.317 to .335).

YanksFanInBeantown
Member
YanksFanInBeantown

He has a lower BABIP than Upton because he doesn’t hit the ball as hard.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

I wasn’t saying you should regress them to the same number. My point was that it’s strange to mention Prado being reliant on average, when his average isn’t BABIP driven, but driven by a low K rate.