Grading the Braves and Diamondbacks on Justin Upton Blockbuster Trade

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2013

Sep. 14, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton (10) during the game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field.  Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The balance of power in the National League East, and perhaps the entire National League, has officially moved south for the winter, as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves have agreed upon a trade involving outfielder Justin Upton.

Physicals still need to be taken and passed, but if completed, this is a deal that changes everything.

As relayed by CBS Sports' Matt Snyder, the Braves have traded 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers (SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Zeke Spruill and IF Brandon Drury) to the Diamondbacks for OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson.

It's always tough to grade trades that involve prospects, given that we just don't know how their talents will play out on the major league stage.

However, this has the makings of a win-win deal for both clubs. Let's take a deeper look at what just went down.

Arizona Diamondbacks

It was only a matter of time before Arizona GM Kevin Towers found a deal he liked that didn't involve a team on Justin Upton's limited no-trade list.

The key piece heading to Arizona is the versatile Martin Prado, who has the ability to play a corner outfield spot, second base or third base. With the Diamondbacks, he'll handle things at the hot corner, alleviating the logjam in the outfield.

Arizona now rolls with an outfield of Jason Kubel in left, prospect Adam Eaton in center and Cody Ross in right, allowing skipper Kirk Gibson to keep Gerardo Parra as the team's fourth outfielder.

Randall Delgado, who celebrates his 23rd birthday next month, struggled with the Braves in 2012, posting a 4.37 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 18 games (17 starts).

Due to Arizona's loaded starting rotation, he figures to start the season in Triple-A working out the kinks and regaining his confidence. He's an excellent piece to have, either as a future member of the rotation or as a chip to use in another deal.

Zeke Spruill, a 23-year-old right-handed starter, still has work to do in the minors before he's ready for prime time. He projects to be a reliable, durable, innings-eater in the middle or back of a contender's rotation, perhaps making an impact as early as 2014.

Nick Ahmed, 22, gives the Diamondbacks options should Didi Gregorius not work out as the team's shortstop of the future, though he's still a few years away from making an impact. 

An athletic middle infielder, he can make all the plays at shortstop with a strong arm and speed on the basepaths to cause problems for the opposition.

Brandon Drury, 20, is a third baseman who struggled at the plate with Single-A Rome in 2012, posting a .229/.270/.333 slash line with six home runs and 51 RBI. Still incredibly raw, Drury is a project who is years away from potentially reaching the big leagues.

All things considered, this was a solid deal for the Diamondbacks.

Prado is a gigantic upgrade at third base, and his ability to get on base consistently will lead to better run production from the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup.

But (there's always a but, isn't there?) if the team is unable to re-sign Prado to a long-term deal following the season when he is set to become a free agent, this deal won't look nearly as good as it does right now.

Grade: B

Atlanta Braves

I love this deal for the Braves, who now have the best outfield in baseball with Justin Upton in left field, his brother B.J. in center and Jason Heyward in right.

Losing Prado stings a bit, because not only was he a versatile player who played excellent defense, but he was the team's leadoff hitter as well, something that now falls on the shoulders of B.J.

But with all due respect to Prado, he's no Justin Upton.

The 25-year-old former All-Star is an MVP candidate when he's locked in and focused, capable of putting a team on his back and leading them to victory.

His presence in the lineup will take even more pressure off 23-year-old Jason Heyward, who bounced back nicely from a terrible sophomore season and found himself getting some votes in the NL MVP race last season.

Take a look at what the Braves lineup looks like now with the Uptons in place:

B.J. Upton CF R
Jason Heyward RF L
Justin Upton LF R
Freddie Freeman 1B L
Dan Uggla 2B R
Brian McCann* C L
Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson 3B L/R
Andrelton Simmons SS R

*McCann is recovering from shoulder surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. If he can't go, bump everyone below him one spot up and insert Gerald Laird as the catcher hitting eighth.

That's as formidable a lineup as you'll find in either league.

Chris Johnson isn't a fantastic player, but he's got power, and in a platoon situation with Juan Francisco, he'll be a solid addition to the Braves lineup.

The best thing about this deal for the Braves is that aside from Zeke Spruill, they didn't surrender any of their top prospects.

Top pitching prospect Julio Teheran remains in the system, as do outfielder Evan Gattis and catcher Christian Bethancourt.

The fact that GM Frank Wren was able to acquire a player of Upton's caliber without surrendering more of the best young talent in the Braves' system is nothing short of impressive.

Atlanta now has the firepower from both sides of the plate to give any pitching staff in baseball fits. 

Move over, Washington—Atlanta is now the cream of the crop in the NL East.

Grade: A

Rick Weiner is a Featured Columnist covering all of MLB.


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