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Justin Upton Rumors
Soon after the Braves signed B.J. Upton, the center fielder told team executives how much he’d enjoy playing with his brother Justin. B.J. might not have known as much at the time, but general manager Frank Wren was already a step ahead of him. Intrigued by the possibility of having both Upton brothers in their outfield, the Braves had begun discussing potential trades with the Diamondbacks in November. It ultimately took months of on-and-off trade talks for the seven-player deal to become a reality.
“It all fell in place for us where we had all of the ingredients to make it happen, and we’re very fortunate that it worked out,” Wren said on a conference call with reporters today.
Wren said the Braves front office is excited to add Upton, “a young, dynamic player that arguably gives us one of the best outfields in the game.” The 25-year-old will add right-handed power to the middle of the Braves’ batting order and patrol the outfield along with Jason Heyward and his older brother.
"It was a a dream of ours to play together,” Upton told reporters. “I didn't think it would happen this early.”
The pair last played together in high school, but they’ve continued exchanging tips and observations over the years as they’ve established themselves in the big leagues. Upton stressed that he’s looking to become a consistently strong player, suggesting that playing alongside his brother could lead to improved results on the field.
“I think we can really feed off of each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to a consistent production rate,” he explained.
Wren said he didn’t begin the offseason with the particular intention of adding both B.J. and Justin. The Braves had strong interest in both players, and now that they’re in place there’s an expectation that the brothers will indeed feed off of one another.
“I do think it’ll drive them,” Wren said. “I think it’ll push them. So I think there are a lot of positives to go around.”
The Braves and Diamondbacks discussed potential trades involving Upton in November and December, generating little traction at first. The teams considered many versions of the deal, going back and forth often leading up to the holidays. The rumors persisted — “there was a lot of chatter whether it was on Trade Rumors, or Twitter,” Wren noted — but discussions didn’t pick up until the last week or so, and the Braves didn’t think they had a good shot at completing the deal until this weekend.
Upton’s name has surfaced in trade rumors since the 2010-11 offseason, when Kevin Towers became Arizona’s GM. Trades and rumors are part of the business, as agent Larry Reynolds knows. That said, there’s a certain amount of relief now that a deal has been completed.
“When reality hits you get a little excited because it’s over first of all for Justin,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds, who represents both Uptons, went on to describe the brothers as competitive with “outstanding baseball acumen.” The Braves were far from the only team interested in Upton, which meant they had to part with some pieces they would have preferred to keep. While the Braves didn’t want to trade Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks pushed for his inclusion in the deal. Wren noted that Prado’s pending arbitration case wasn’t a factor in the move, and acknowledged that years of control figure in to any trade talks. Still, giving up Prado was difficult, even though he’s just a year away from free agency.
“I don’t think there’s any question that was the most difficult part of it,” Wren said. “We’re sad to see him go.”
Wren was quick to note that teams don’t obtain difference makers without giving up “something really good.” And as the Braves set out to retool their team for the post-Chipper Jones era, they wanted impact players. With both Upton brothers in place, the Braves have completed the bulk of their offseason work and will be viewed by many as a contender.
“Where we sit today in January we like our club a lot,” Wren said. “Now we’ve got to go perform.”
After years of trade talk, the Justin Upton rumors finally amounted to a deal. The Braves and Diamondbacks have officially agreed to a seven-player trade that will send Upton to Atlanta. The Braves obtain Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson for third baseman Martin Prado, right-hander Randall Delgado, shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed, right-handed pitching prospect Zeke Spruill and minor league first baseman Brandon Drury.
The Braves now have a new-look outfield that will also feature B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward. Justin's older brother signed with Atlanta as a free agent earlier in the offseason, agreeing to a five-year, $75.2MM contract. GM Frank Wren added balance to what had previously been a lefty-heavy lineup by acquiring the right-handed hitting Upton brothers.
Upton, the first overall selection of the 2005 draft, followed up a breakout 2011 season with a solid but unspectacular 2012 campaign. The 25-year-old hit 17 home runs and posted a .280/.355/.430 batting line in 628 plate appearances last year, his sixth season at the MLB level.
There are now three years and $38.5MM remaining on Upton's contract, including a $9.75MM salary in 2013. The contract includes a no-trade list which allows him to block trades to the Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays and Mariners. He exercised his no-trade rights earlier in the winter, blocking a proposed trade that would have sent him to Seattle.
Prado has provided the Braves with versatility on defense and steady offensive production in recent years. He posted a .301/.359/.438 batting line in 690 plate appearances in 2012 while playing five positions. Though Prado was Atlanta's primary left fielder, he played at least ten games at second base, shortstop and third base.
The 29-year-old is arbitration eligible for the third time this winter. He asked for $7.05MM with the Braves, a file and trial team, offering $6.65MM, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. The Braves were willing to trade Prado once they learned that his asking price on a multiyear deal was $11-12MM, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (on Twitter). Prado, a client of The Legacy Agency, remains on track to hit free agency following the 2013 season.
Johnson hit a career-best 15 home runs last year while playing for the Astros and Diamondbacks. The 28-year-old posted a .281/.326/.451 batting line in 528 plate appearances in 2012. He'll earn $2.875MM in 2013 and will remain under team control as an arbitration eligible player through 2016.
As a consequence of the trade, Johnson and Juan Francisco project as Atlanta's primary third basemen. The Braves plan to use the pair in a platoon at third, O'Brien reports (on Twitter). The trade will also take Atlanta out of the running for center fielder Michael Bourn and other free agent outfielders.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks still have considerable outfield depth. Cody Ross, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton provide Arizona manager Kirk Gibson with various options, even without Upton, who had been the team's primary right fielder since 2008. Prado figures to play at third base in Arizona given the team's crowded outfield and the departure of Johnson.
Teams such as the Orioles that had interest in trading for Kubel will now have to look elsewhere for offense. Though Arizona GM Kevin Towers was willing to listen to offers on Upton and Kubel, there's no indication he'd actually trade both players.
Upton drew interest from multiple MLB teams this offseason, as the Diamondbacks were evidently listening to trade offers. The Rangers, one of Upton's many suitors, offered Mike Olt in a trade, but did not include right-hander Cody Buckel in their proposal, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports (on Twitter).
Delgado started 17 games for the Braves in 2012 after entering the season as the 46th ranked prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. The 22-year-old posted a 4.37 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 92 2/3 innings.
Ahmed, 22, played at Class A this past season in his second year as a professional. The 2011 second rounder posted a .269/.337/.391 batting line in 571 plate appearances. Baseball America named him the best defensive infielder in Atlanta's minor league system.
Spruill ranked ninth on BA's list of top Braves prospects this winter. The 23-year-old spent the 2012 season at Double-A Mississippi, posting a 3.67 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 161 2/3 innings.
Drury played at Class A in 2012. The 20-year-old posted a .229/.270/.333 batting line in 480 plate appearances in his third professional season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the teams were nearing an agreement, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the teams had agreed to a trade (on Twitter) and Mark Bowman of MLB.com first reported the specifics of the deal.
Here's a look at the latest Justin Upton rumors with all links going to Twitter..
- Arizona GM Kevin Towers is going on vacation this Friday, Rosenthal reports. While Towers would prefer to trade Upton or Kubel by then, it's not a deadline.
- The Braves are now waiting to hear back from the Diamondbacks about their offer, Rosenthal reports. It's a "sensitive" time in the trade talks. For much of the offseason, the Braves had trouble getting the Diamondbacks to return their calls, Rosenthal reports. Things have evidently changed.
- The Rangers haven't talked to the Diamondbacks about Upton in weeks, Heyman reports.
- The Diamondbacks could make a trade involving Upton or Kubel with the next few days, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Heyman notes that the Braves seem seriously interested in Upton and adds on Twitter that they're trying hard for him and have offered a "strong" package of players. The Rangers, Rays and Padres have also shown interest, Heyman writes.
- The Diamondbacks have an offer on the table for Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The offer is believed to be from the Braves, Rosenthal writes. Arizona likes Evan Gattis' power, but the team continues weighing various options. For example, Diamomdbacks executives discussed Kubel with the Orioles today.
- The Diamondbacks want to make a decision on trading Jason Kubel or Upton by Friday, people involved in the process tell ESPN.com's Buster Olney. Arizona had an agreement with the Mariners on an Upton deal earlier this offseason but the 25-year-old used his limited veto power to shoot the trade down.
- Meanwhile, Arizona's talks with the Braves on Upton have resumed (Twitter link). Atlanta is said to be aggressive about acquiring Upton and they're likely the frontrunner for the outfielder if he is dealt. The D'Backs have been reviewing the Braves' offer and some folks involved believe that it's a strong proposal, according to Olney.
- The asking price for Kubel is dropping and Baltimore would be a logical landing spot for him, Olney tweets. Earlier today it was reported that the O's are pursuing Kubel but talks are not yet at an advanced stage.
The Braves are close to acquiring Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The teams are still working through the final details of the deal, which will send Randall Delgado to Arizona.
If the Braves complete a deal for Upton, they'll have a new-look outfield that will also feature B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward. Justin's older brother signed with Atlanta as a free agent earlier in the offseason, agreeing to a five-year, $75.2MM contract. Both Upton brothers bat right-handed and would add balance to what had previously been a lefty-heavy lineup.
This post was first published on January 24th, 2013.
The latest from ESPN.com's Buster Olney…
- If the Mariners’ attempt to acquire Justin Upton had been successful, Seattle would have traded John Jaso to Oakland as part of the deal, Olney reports (on Twitter). Instead, Upton blocked the proposed trade and the A's acquired Jaso in a three-way trade with Washington.
- The Diamondbacks continue to weigh offers for Upton and Jason Kubel, Olney reports (Twitter links). The Diamondbacks want to deal one of the outfielders sooner rather than later and they feel as though there’s a good chance of getting “suitable value” for Kubel if they decide to deal him.
- Rival executives view the Orioles as a possible match for Kubel, Olney reports (Twitter links). In Olney's view the Rays are another potential destination for Kubel.
- The 2002 Braves and the 1995 Indians had some of the best outfields in baseball history, Olney wrote at his Insider-only blog today.
The Mariners continue discussing an extension with Felix Hernandez, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The sides aren’t close to a deal, and are now “dancing.” However, Seattle is at least considering a four-year, $100MM offer, according to Rosenthal. It’s not clear if the Mariners have offered a nine-figure deal to Hernandez, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. The 26-year-old Octagon client would presumably want a longer commitment, as Rosenthal points out. Here are more of Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…
- The Mariners’ willingness to add veterans approaching free agency suggests GM Jack Zduriencik senses an urgency to win now in the view of some rival executives.
- Justin Upton won’t be traded for Chase Headley, an official from one of the teams involved told Rosenthal. Headley is two years away from free agency, however, and Rosenthal suggests that the Padres figure to move him eventually. Upton, another trade candidate, is under contract through 2015.
- The Diamondbacks and Rangers haven’t revived Upton-centered trade talks since the Mariners’ failed attempt at acquiring the 25-year-old right fielder. Rosenthal reports that the sides agreed to “move on.” When the teams were last in contact the Rangers offered a four-played package led by Mike Olt that would have included shortstop prospect Leury Garcia and either Martin Perez or Cody Buckel plus a fourth prospect.
- The Rangers continue pondering one significant move. They are viewed as possible destinations for Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn, and could also pursue relief help. The Rangers discussed right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard with the Nationals earlier this offseason, Rosenthal reports.
- The Nationals could trade Clippard or Drew Storen now that they’ve signed Rafael Soriano. One rival executive suggested Washington could sign Lohse, but Rosenthal writes that a deal with free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez seems more likely.
It was on this date in 1871 the Boston Red Stockings incorporated giving birth to today's Atlanta Braves. Let's take a look at the news from the 21st century Braves and the rest of the National League:
- The Braves have enough payroll space to add one significant salary and have yet to rule out Michael Bourn or Justin Upton, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O'Brien adds GM Frank Wren has spoken with Bourn's agent Scott Boras, but they didn't start any negotiations. O'Brien also has been told manager Fredi Gonzalez contacted Bourn within the past few weeks. In regards to Upton, O'Brien sees the Braves and Rangers as the last two teams standing, but neither seems willing to match what the Mariners offered in their failed bid to acquire the outfielder.
- O'Brien, via Twitter, discounts the suggestion the Braves have yet to acquire Bourn or Upton to save payroll in order to sign Martin Prado to a long-term deal.
- It's been nearly a decade since the Reds had to go to an arbitration hearing, but this year could be different, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "We're hopeful we can get something done," Reds GM Walt Jocketty said of the six players with whom salary figures were exchanged. "Some of the spreads were significant. We'll see how it proceeds the next week or two." The Reds' arbitration class is headlined by Mat Latos, whose case was analyzed by MLBTR's Matt Swartz last week. You can keep track of all of the Reds' arbitration cases with MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker.
- With the Red Sox still seeking a left-handed hitting first baseman/left fielder, Tom Singer of MLB.com wonders if the Pirates will make another run at Jose Iglesias, as the starting point of a bigger deal involving Garrett Jones (Twitter links).
- There is still no clear-cut answer as to whether Francisco Liriano will be with the Pirates in 2013, tweets Singer. The Pirates and Liriano agreed to a two-year, $12.75MM contract in December, but the deal was put on hold earlier this month when it was discovered the left-hander injured his right arm.
- Lucas Duda told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com his surgically repaired right wrist feels great and he has started hitting off a tee. Duda is projected to man left field for the Mets.
- Chipper Jones was honored at the New York BBWAA dinner last night and confessed to the audience he was starting to get the itch to go back to Spring Training, Rubin reports. "I was on the Braves' web site, just kind of messing around on my computer," said Jones. "I was thinking to myself, 'You know what? I think I'm going to go down and get me a workout in, see how everything feels.' I was down there for about five minutes and I figured I'd go to Hawaii instead."
Condolences go out to the family and friends of Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who passed away this afternoon according to the Cardinals. He was 92. Stan the Man was a .331/.417/.559 career hitter who slugged 475 homers and was thrice named league MVP during his 22 seasons with St. Louis.
Here's the latest from around the league as Saturday turns into Sunday…
- “I’m going to be brutally honest as I always am, I don’t [think Brian Wilson will return],” said Giants GM Brian Sabean to Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of The New York Post. Sabean acknowledged talking to Wilson's agent about a low-base salary, incentive-laden contract prior to non-tendering him.
- Some teams interested in acquiring Justin Upton have been struggling to get a response from the Diamondbacks according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). There's plenty of interest, but offers haven't been easy to make.
- Rich Hill told reporters (including Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal and Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald) that he is confident he'll find a big league contract on the open market (Twitter links). The lefty reliever has not talked about returning to the Red Sox on a minor league deal.
- Larry Stone of The Seattle Times took an updated look at the Mariners' payroll, which currently sits just north of $78MM according to his calculations.
The Cubs and the Diamondbacks recently discussed the feasibility of a trade involving right fielder Justin Upton, two major league sources told Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. According to both sources, the Diamondbacks asked for two-time All-Star Starlin Castro in return for Upton and were rebuffed. Theo Epstein & Co. decided that the asking price was too high and cut off talks.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has an obvious surplus of talent in the outfield but he has made it clear that he wants quality in return for Upton, Jason Kubel, or anyone else. Meanwhile, the asking price for Upton may not be the only hurdle to overcome in a deal involving the Cubs. The Cubs are on the 25-year-old’s no-trade list, along with the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Mariners. Upton invoked his limited no trade privileges in order to block a deal to Seattle earlier this winter.
Upton has three years remaining on his deal and is owed $38MM over that span. Despite the lofty price tag that Towers has put on Upton, the club is still reportedly intent on moving him.
The Diamondbacks had insisted on receiving Major League-ready talent in any trade for Justin Upton, but were willing to accept prospects in last week's proposed deal with the Mariners that Upton blocked with his no-trade clause. D'Backs GM Kevin Towers tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that the change in philosophy was due to the rising cost of free agents and the fact that the Snakes had added outfield depth in Cody Ross.
"It’s easier to do more of a prospect-driven deal than before. To me, it would have to be the right prospects," Towers said. "We’re targeting people’s best prospects and upper-level guys that we think are close — if not (major league-ready) this year, then next year.”
Some more news from around baseball…
- The Diamondbacks seem intent on trading Upton, leaving MLB.com's Matthew Leach puzzled at why the club would move a talented young player on a controllable contract.
- The Mets haven't given up on the possibility of offering Brian Wilson a Major League contract, reports Newsday's Marc Carig (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that the Mets were unimpressed when they watched Wilson throw over the weekend.
- The Braves have one of the least-profitable TV deals in baseball but team CEO Terry McGuirk says that low broadcasting revenues aren't hampering how the club does business, McGuirk tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves have 14 years left on their current TV deal, which McGuirk describes as “iron-clad."
- Athletics GM Billy Beane said it was difficult to move a highly-regarded pitching prospect like A.J. Cole, CSN Bay Area's Casey Pratt reports. However, the GM said it had to be done to help the A's contend in 2013. "We're shifting all of our focus on the Major League club and trying to take as much advantage as we can of the opportunity we have," Beane said.
- Beane said he prepared to go with a platoon of Derek Norris and George Kottaras behind the plate, MLB.com's Jane Lee reports (Twitter links). "Only if it was John Jaso" would he have made a move to improve Oakland's catching. Beane said he had been trying to acquire Jaso from the Mariners over the last couple of months.
- Buster Posey tops the list of baseball's best 25-year-old players, according to ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN Insider subscription req'd).
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that Edwin Jackson's age and track record made the team comfortable enough to sign him to a big free agent contract.
- In another item from Sullivan, Epstein said that he expects the Cubs to contend in 2013 despite the fact that they're still ostensibly rebuilding. "Otherwise, there’s no reason to show up or build a team,” Epstein said. “It’s postseason or bust every year. That’s what our goal is."