Justin Upton AP

The Justin Upton trade: The Braves get their man, the Diamondbacks do better than expected


Justin Upton was being dangled by the Diamondbacks forever, but he’s finally out the door. It’s a five-for-two deal:

  • Braves get: (OF) Justin Upton, (3B) Chris Johnson
  • Diamondbacks get: (3B) Martin Prado, (RHP) Randall Delgado, (SS) Nick Ahmed, (RHP) Zeke Spruill, and (1B) Brandon Drury.

For all the talk that the Diamondbacks’ leverage was gone when Upton blocked the proposed trade to the Mariners, Kevin Towers did pretty well in this deal.  In Prado he gets a solid starting third baseman who can play second and left field as well. They also get a guy who is coming off  a year in which he hit .301/.359/.438 with 10 homers and 70 RBI. And it wasn’t an outlier kind of year for him.

Delgado, who turns 23 in a couple of weeks, wasn’t spectacular in his 18 appearances for the Braves last season (4-9, 4.37 ERA 76 Ks and 42 BB in 92.2 IP), but he remains a solid pitching prospect who has stuck out 9.6 batters per nine innings in six minor league seasons. Spruill is a year and a half older and hasn’t hit the bigs yet. The Braves likely didn’t have him penciled in to their rotation any time soon. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys but doesn’t walk many either. Ahmed, a second rounder in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut, hasn’t been above A-ball yet. He has promise, but is blocked by Andrelton Simmons. Drury is 20 and struggled in low-A ball last year.

No one piece of that package is spectacular, but there is a lot of upside in it, particularly with Delgado, and in Prado the Diamondbacks have upgraded their offense a great deal.

As for the Braves’ side of things: they got their man.  Upton may have struggled at times last season, but he has shown that he is capable  of elite performance at a young age, being only a year removed from an age-23 season in which he hit .289/.369/.529 while playing strong defense.  The biggest question will be how he does outside of the extremely friendly confines of Chase Field, where he boasts an OPS of .937. Compare that with his road OPS of .731.

In addition to Upton Atlanta gets Chris Johnson who may form the right-handed sign of a platoon at third base with Juan Francisco.  At least if no one tells Fredi Gonzalez that Johnson has hit righties better than he’s hit lefties in his career. For his part, Francisco is basically helpless against lefties.  Not the best third base situation in the world for the Braves, but Prado was entering his walk year and it’s doubtful that the budget conscious Braves were going to shell out big dollars for him when he became a free agent.

On balance, you have to invoke the “the team that got the best player won the trade” rule and say that the Braves won this trade, at least at the outset.  With the addition of Justin Upton the Braves have a middle-of-the-order bat they’ve lacked since Chipper Jones was able to play a full season. A middle-of-the order bat that’s under team control for three more years for $38 million, which isn’t too bad if he maintains his recent level of performance and is a downright bargain if he breaks out like many think he might. And putting him next to B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, the Braves have one of the best outfields in baseball.

Whether this puts the Braves in a position to truly challenge the Nationals is an open question. But they have improved themselves.

MVP or not, Mike Trout’s place in history is secure

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Mike Trout may not win another MVP award, because Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays had a great season and voters seem to be leaning his way, but the Angels center fielder just completed his fourth MVP-caliber campaign in four full seasons as a major leaguer.

Trout has now either won the MVP or (presumably) finished runner-up at age 20, age 21, age 22, and age 23. And there were certainly cases to be made that he was deserving of all four MVP awards. It’s been an incredible start to a career. But how incredible?

Here are the all-time leaders in Wins Above Replacement through age 23:

37.6 – Mike Trout
36.0 – Ty Cobb
34.2 – Ted Williams
31.4 – Mel Ott
30.1 – Ken Griffey Jr.
29.7 – Mickey Mantle
27.7 – Alex Rodriguez
27.5 – Al Kaline
26.7 – Arky Vaughan
26.5 – Rogers Hornsby

I mean, just look at the 10 names on that list. Ridiculous, and Trout sits atop all of them.

Trout has been the subject of intense MVP-related debates in three of his four seasons, but regardless of which side of that coin you favor don’t let it obscure the fact that we’re witnessing something truly special here. There’s certainly room to quibble with the exact rankings–WAR is merely one prominent and easy way to do such things–but however you slice it Trout has been one of the best handful of players in the history of baseball through age 23.

Orioles say re-signing Chris Davis is “a top priority”

Chris Davis
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Last week impending free agent Chris Davis expressed frustration that the Orioles had not approached him about a contract extension during the season, pointing out that the team had previously locked up other players like J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones mid-season.

Now that the season is over and Davis had another monster year Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun that re-signing Davis is “a top priority” and added:

He’s had a great year and he’s been a great player for us, so obviously, we’d like to have him back. Whether we can do that in the market, that remains to be seen, but we’re going to try.

Davis is 29 years old, has some defensive versatility, and has led the league in homers in two of the past three seasons while posting an .891 OPS during that time. He’s going to get plenty of huge multi-year offers and based on some of Duquette’s other quotes within Encina’s article it sure sounds like the Orioles are preparing for life without him.