Following the trade of Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, there’s been plenty of speculation that the Braves could also consider dealing Justin Upton, with the Mariners being named as a potential fit. Joel Sherman of the New York Post now hears that the Braves are “very much shopping” Upton, but the asking price is said to be steeper than their price for Heyward, which was rather significant itself.
For Heyward, Atlanta received four years of right-hander Shelby Miller and a solid pitching prospect in Tyrell Jenkins. To be seeking more than that is ambitious, especially considering the fact that Heyward’s $8.3MM salary is markedly lower than Upton’s $14.5MM commitment. There’s also a widespread perception that Heyward, despite his inferior power numbers, is more valuable than Upton due to his elite defense in right field.
Of course, not all teams may see things that way. While WAR strongly favors Heyward, it’s certainly not unthinkable that a team would value Upton’s power more than Heyward’s glove, especially considering the scarcity of power in today’s game. As Sherman notes, Giancarlo Stanton is the only right-handed hitter in the NL who hit more homers than Upton’s 29 last season. Those 29 homers tied Upton for 12th in all of Major League Baseball. Overall, he batted .270/.342/.491 with the Braves in 2014.
Interest in Upton is said to be “significant” by those to whom Sherman spoke, as is the likelihood that Upton will be dealt. One executive from another club plainly told Sherman, “Justin Upton will be moved.” Sherman said the Mariners do indeed have interest, and they also have the type of pitching prospects that the Braves covet. (Last night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported that Taijuan Walker doesn’t appear to be off limits, but the Mariners would likely want more than one year of Upton to part with him.) Upton also removed Seattle from his no-trade list this offseason.
If the Braves are to move Upton, their connection to Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas makes more sense. Dealing Upton for pitching prospects and replacing him with Tomas could afford the Braves comparable right-handed power that they will control for a much longer term. Tomas would, in theory, pair with Evan Gattis on the outfield corners to give the Braves a pair of powerful right-handed bats with which they could surround Freddie Freeman in the long term. As of this morning, Atlanta is said to be one of the front-runners for Tomas.