The Uptons bring both speed and power to the team. Their talents, combined with those of Jason Heyward, gives the Braves what looks to be the strongest outfield in the majors. Offensively, they have a lot of bang in their bats. The downside? Strikeouts. And lots of ‘em.
I have to admit, as excited as I was by the mornings events, when I heard the details, my heart sank. Martin Prado was part of the deal.
Martin Prado was, without a doubt, the hardest working, most versatile player on the Braves roster. During the 2012 season, Martin played five different positions. Left field, third base, shortstop, second base and first base. Like I said, versatile. He played wherever the team need him to, without hesitation or reservation. He kept his head down and played hard every game. He was one of the most popular players in the clubhouse and one of the most respected. Ego? He didn’t have one. In three of the last four seasons, Martin Prado ranked either first or second in team hitting. His numbers? In 2009 .307, in 2010 .307 and in 2012 .301. Consistent. You’re wondering about 2011? Missing more than a month of the season battling a staph infection, Martin hit .260. In his first game back from the DL he went yard. Martin has a career .295 average, with 52 home runs, 308 strike outs and 286 RBIs. He was an All-Star in 2010. All along, I believed that Martin Prado would inherit third base from Chipper Jones. He earned with his play on the field and his loyalty to the team. I felt great about the Braves infield. It was only the outfield that needed to be shored up.
Arbitration never crossed my mind. The Braves had six players who were arbitration eligible. Five agreed to one-year deals which included pay raises. But Martin and the Braves couldn’t come to terms on a long-term deal, even though their numbers weren’t too far apart. His arbitration hearing was set for next month. He’d be a free agent at the end of the season. Frank Wren knew the Braves wouldn’t be able to keep Martin once he was on the open market and getting a player of Justin’s caliber would be costly. The D-backs GM Kevin Towers had stopped talking to the Braves once he was told that Andrelton Simmons was untouchable. As time went on, and other teams fell away, Towers was open to talking to the Braves again. For Frank, the timing was right but the price was heavy. “I think that was the most difficult part of this deal,” he said of parting ways with Martin. “He’s such a professional. He’s such a quality person. We’re sad to see him go. It was the toughest decision we had to make.”
I hate to see the Braves lose a player like Martin Prado but as we are regularly reminded, baseball is a business. Martin Prado was consistent. The word most often used to describe Justin Upton? Inconsistent. But a change of scenery, wearing the uniform of a team that truly wants him and playing alongside his brother, that could help create the consistency.
What I’ve found most interesting over the past 24 hours, is the reaction of media outlets versus fan reaction. I’ve watched, listened to and read everything possible. The national media loves this deal, the local media loves it more. Words like "blockbuster" and "coup" are being used. The pundits are saying the Braves will have the best outfield in all of baseball and they’re not going to let the Nationals win the division and get stuck playing in another Wild Card game. The fans? That’s another story. Although there’s a great deal of excitement, there is a huge sense of dismay in letting Martin Prado go. Many, many people think that this trade could come back to haunt the team. Why doesn’t the national media see it that way? Because Martin Prado is one of the most underrated players in the game. He hasn’t been playing in the biggest market and most of the headlines have gone to Chipper, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen and Jason Heyward. Not that they don’t deserve the headlines, but Martin has always done the same thing. Kept his head down and played hard, every single day. Braves fans know what we’re losing.
The new wrinkle? Instead of worrying about left field, the Braves can now focus their concerns on third base. As it stand now, Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco will platoon at third base. I don’t feel good about it, but then I have little confidence in Francisco. As for payroll, the Braves are in good shape. They still have $10 million of a $98 million payroll left.
All emotion aside, the Atlanta Braves outfield became much stronger today. The offense? Maybe. Again, if everyone lives up to their potential.
These are the players involved in the trade:
The Braves get Justin Upton (LF) and Chris Johnson (3B).
The Diamondbacks get Martin Prado (OF/IF), Randall Delgado (P), and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed (SS), Zeke Spruill (P) and Brandon Drury (IF).
Comparing the 2012/career numbers of the principles, this is how it stacks up:
Batting Avg HR RBIs Strike Outs
B.J. Upton .246/.255 28/118 78/447 169/1,020
Justin Upton .280/.278 17/108 67/363 121/694
Jason Heyward .269/.261 27/59 82/196 152/373
Martin Prado .301/.295 10/52 70/286 69/308