Yeah, it’s early and yeah, Justin Upton isn’t going to post Ruthian offensive stats for an entire season, but the initial results on the trade between the D-Backs and Braves isn’t exactly even. Upton is tied for the Major League lead in homers with six and is looking like a tour de force in the middle of the Braves’ batting order.
The Braves acquired Upton along with third baseman Chris Johnson from the Diamondbacks back in January in exchange for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and prospects Brandon Drury, Nick Ahmed, and Zeke Spruill.
What made the trade particularly shocking is the confluence of Upton’s age (25), team-friendly contract ($38.5 million over the next three seasons), and his obvious skill. Players like Upton rarely become available — even more rarely at that relative cheapness — and that is becoming the case even more lately as teams work tirelessly to get their franchise superstars locked up for a long time.
Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall still thinks the trade worked out well for both teams.
“I think it’s a situation where it was a perfect situation for him actually and for us we got what we needed,” Hall stated. “I mean this was just two different teams that had two different needs and it worked out well for both, not to mention we still have four prospects that we’re going to be dealing with in the next few years.”
The reality is, the D-Backs were under no pressure to get rid of Upton. Any pressure they felt was self-imposed in their desire to construct a more “gritty” roster. This isn’t to say that the players the D-Backs acquired can’t be good, but if you ask 100 current and former GM’s if they would have made the trade from the Braves’ perspective, all 100 would say yes before you even finish your sentence. Any attempt by Arizona’s upper management to spin the Upton trade as a net positive is disingenuous.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.