In the last two summers, the Atlanta Braves have been walking the line, but haven’t picked a side: contender or just attender. This winter, they made a decision that they have had enough of window shopping the playoffs, and it was time to break through the glass and take what they want. And the way to break through was to go all in on both the potential and talent that only both Justin and BJ Upton could provide.
Justin Upton has been the most shopped star in baseball over the last three years. It’s almost easier to say who hasn’t been involved with him than who has (luckily, he’s not a lady). When the Braves made the move to land his brother BJ, they too were thrown into the fray, via both association and need. The Braves have been one piece away for a long time. Signing BJ didn’t change that, due to the fact that he replaced Michael Bourn, albeit he’s skilled in more ways. Even after handing him $75 million to round out his 20’s, the need to get another franchise-defining bat was needed.
Enter the Diamondbacks who have been looking for some way to cash in on the potential of Justin Upton for years. They’ve been shopping him so hard, it seemed like he may be the owner of same struggle as the Outbreak monkey. The combination of the sky-high return they asked for, along with the no-trade clause owned by Upton, made him harder to move than the Sword in the Stone. However, the Braves stepped to the plate with the perfect mix of pull (his brother), opportunity (a cleanup spot with a contender) and payout and ended up landing the deal of the year so far.
After all of that ordeal and maneuvering, the Braves end up making the type of move that you have to do to win: the extra one. They didn’t really NEED the younger Upton and holding on to the young pitching and versatility that Martin Prado brought could have done more to keep the squad level than adding him did. But there are few chances to really grab one of the game’s best 25-and-under talents on the market, so you have to take them. Especially when they have shown what they are capable of in the way Upton has. He’s only two years removed from a top 5 MVP finish in 2011, hitting .289, with 31 homers, 88 RBI and 21 steals as a 23-year-old, an effort that led the Diamondbacks from last place to the top of the NL West. He’s a talent that already proven he can be as good as, if not better than, Andrew McCutchen is now, and he still has the type of potential to hit the Ryan Braun level. He’s the real deal.
But like his brother, he’s been streaky. He’s been an every other year player so far, which is to be expected from such a youngster. Perhaps the Diamondbacks thought better to trade high. Perhaps considering they got back a hybrid, yet high ceiling, .300 hitting utility man in Prado, along with a handful of second-tier prospects, they dangled him too long on the market and got what they could.
At any rate, it’s clear what the Braves got: the steal of the winter, perhaps twice, and the final piece to what should be the most complete and athletic outfield in the National League over the next two years when Upton’s deal will be up again. But if everything plays to plan, the Brothers Upton should combine to be the best family band on the road for years to come.