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

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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 24, Phillies 4; Phillies 9, Mets 6: At least in a doubleheader you have the chance to shake off the first game if it doesn’t go your way. And boy howdy did the first game not go Philly’s way. In that one the Mets hung a 10-spot in the fifth inning and scored 24 runs on 25 hits. Only 11 of those runs were earned. It was an ugly, ugly game with two position players pitching including one, Scott Kingery, who was just lobbing in slow, fat pitches that didn’t even register on the radar gun. The only saving grave for the Phillies was that the game was “broadcast” on Facebook and no one watches those. If you want a full writeup of the carnage Bill, a Phillies fan, had to do it last night.

In the nightcap Philly righted the ship, with Zach Eflin pitching into the seventh and Phillies batters jumping on Steven Matz early. Rhys Hoskins hit a three-run homer and Kingery hit a solo shot that went out a bit faster than his fastballs came in in the first game.

Rangers 8, Angels 6: Neither of these teams are going to be playing six weeks from now, but they’ll always have this weird, kind of disjointed bases-loaded 5-4 triple-play to remember. It was an historical one too as it was the majors’ first triple play without retiring the batter in over 106 years:

Jurickson Profar, who started the triple play and was its MVP, at least if triple plays can have MVPs, also homered, as did Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.

Rays 3, Yankees 1: Tampa Bay just has New York’s number I guess. Blake Snell returned to toss two-hit shutout ball for five innings and the Yankees would only manage a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double the rest of the way. Masahiro Tanaka was scoreless in innings 2-6, but unfortunately he started in inning 1, allowing two runs. Maybe the Yankees should try using a Rays-style opener for him?

Cubs 1, Pirates 0: Jon Lester hasn’t had a great second half — or last part of the first half — but he looked like the Lester of April and May last night, twirling six shutout frames, striking out eight and not walking anyone. Ivan Nova came close to matching him, but surrendered an Ian Happ solo homer in the fourth for the game’s only scoring. Chicago increased its lead in the NL Central to three and a half games over the idle Brewers. Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight to fall to .500.

Nationals 5, Cardinals 4Bryce Harper had three hits and drove in three runs to help the Nats snap its four-game losing streak and send the Cardinals to a loss for the first time in nine games. The most exciting thing here: the Nats taking a one-run lead into the ninth inning. Somehow Koda Glover held it. I mean, sure, he put two men on with two outs before closing it out, but what is life if it is not at least a little interesting?

Rockies 5, Braves 3: Atlanta could not close out its lead, however. In front 3-2 heading into the ninth, Trevor Story, the leadoff hitter that inning, reached via a Dansby Swanson error, Brad Brach — pitching in that situation because the Braves’ bullpen is sort of a mess right now — walked Gerardo Parra to move Story to second and then he came in on a Ryan McMahon pinch-hit RBI single to tie things up. Two batters later David Dahl — who had homered earlier — then came to the plate and knocked in both Parra and McMahon to give the Rockies a two-run lead that would hold up. The Rockies have won five of six. The only good news for the Braves was that Ronald Acuña played, singling in his first at bat and finishing 1-for-4.

Twins 15, Tigers 8: Logan Forsythe had five hits and Jorge Polanco drove in four runs for the Twins, three of which came on a three-run homer. There were lots of homers here, in fact, with the teams combining for seven round-trippers. The Twins must’ve left the air conditioner blowing out for the whole game. [*Editor whispers*]. Sorry, still not over the 1987 ALCS. I’m gonna accuse the Twins of somehow figuring out how to pull that crap in their new park too.

Royals 6, Blue Jays 2: For the third straight game a rain delay stopped the beginning of a game in this series, this time by over two hours. The Royals earned the series split, however, thanks to a single RBI from six different batters, including a Lucas Duda homer, and Royals relievers Brian FlynnKevin McCarthyBrandon Maurer and Wily Peralta shut down Toronto on three hits over the final five innings.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1: If you placed money on “Some time in 2018 Clay Buchholz will pitch a complete game, allowing only one run on five hits, getting the win for a playoff contending team” before the season began you would’ve been arrested for suspected time-traveling and/or placed in a rubber room so you could not do any harm to others or to yourself. Yet it happened. He got five runs of support in the first inning, thanks in part to a David Peralta three-run homer, and other than allowing a Hunter Renfroe solo shot in the eighth, he was lights-out. Not too bad for a guy everyone thought was burnt toast not too long ago.