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Rangers Attempted a Matt Garza-Justin Upton Blockbuster Trade with Braves

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Justin Upton #8 of the Atlanta Braves takes batting practice before playing against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 9, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Josh SchochAnalyst IIISeptember 23, 2013

A blockbuster trade almost shook the MLB world this year, as the Texas Rangers reportedly attempted to trade right-handed starter Matt Garza in a package deal to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Justin Upton.

You read that right—the Rangers were willing to trade a guy whom they had just traded for themselves if it meant getting Upton in return, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports:

The Rangers, trying to solve that power void, tried to pull off a blockbuster deal for Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton before the July 31 trade deadline. The Rangers offered starter Matt Garza, All-Star closer Joe Nathan and outfielder David Murphy, but they were rejected, two high-ranking club officials told USA TODAY Sports.

This deal would have been the biggest trade at the 2013 MLB trade deadline by a mile. The Rangers traded for Garza on July 22, but there were early reports that he could be on the move again before the July 31 deadline.

Remember yesterday when @jonmorosi and I said that virtually all of the #Rangers were in play? List includes the newly acquired Matt Garza.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 16:  Pitcher Matt Garza #22 of the Texas Rangers starts against the Tampa Bay Rays September 16, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The realization that Garza was almost sent away from Texas less than a week after he joined the team is certainly surprising. However, we still don't know how close the two sides came to an actual deal.

The Braves likely didn't consider this trade for long. Upton is only 26 years old and is signed through 2015. Garza is a free agent at the end of the year, whereas Nathan recently triggered a clause in his contract that gives him the option to become a free agent in the offseason. The move may have made sense for Atlanta if this was a redraft fantasy league, but in the long term, it made none.

Let's say that the trade somehow was accepted. How would this have changed the two teams' seasons? Where would they stand now? Let's take a look.

 

Would the Rangers Have Made the Playoffs?

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 04:  Ian Kensler #5 of the Texas Rangers is congratulated by Nelson Cruz #17 after Kensler scored in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on August 4, 2013 in Oakland, California. Kensler scored on an RBI si
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The biggest change for the Rangers in this trade is obviously the acquisition of Upton.

After Nelson Cruz was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, the team was left with a hole in the outfield. It attempted to address it by acquiring Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox via waivers, but his .269 batting average and five home runs with the team haven't made up for the loss of Texas' best power hitter. (Of course, news of Cruz's suspension came after the trade deadline, but no matter in this hypothetical.)

The biggest problem with Upton is that he has slowed down since an incredible month of April. He has been awful in September, and that wouldn't have helped the Rangers as they tried to steal an AL wild-card spot or win the AL West crown.

As you can see, Upton hit 12 of his 26 home runs this year in the first month, but his production has fallen since. What's more, Upton's dip in production would have been exacerbated by the change in league.

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Justin Upton #8 of the Atlanta Braves argues a call against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning at Turner Field on September 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Padres won 4-0. (Photo by Kevin Liles/Getty Images)
Kevin Liles/Getty Images

Upton's played with the Braves in the NL East all year, which has been Atlanta's division to lose since their 12-1 start. The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies have both struggled this year, and the NL East (alongside the NL West) has become arguably the worst division in baseball (outside of the Braves).

Upton hit 11 of his 26 home runs against NL East opponents, but that's not a luxury he would have had with the Rangers. Instead, he would have been facing AL pitchers, against whom he doesn't have the best track record against.

Upton's value to the Rangers would have been as a power hitter. But if these numbers are any indication, he wouldn't have helped the team all that much.

On the other hand, the Rangers would have lost Garza, Nathan and Murphy.

Losing Murphy would have meant very little to the Rangers, as he barely kept his batting average above the Mendoza Line since the trade deadline. Upton would have been an improvement over Murphy, but losing Garza and Nathan would have been tough.

Since July 31, Nathan has allowed just two earned runs in 16 innings of work and has converted eight of his nine save opportunities as a very safe option out of the bullpen.

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 03:  A.J. Pierzynski #12 and Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers celebrate defeating the Oakland Athletics 5-1 at O.co Coliseum on September 3, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Garza, however, has struggled during the same time period. He has surrendered 37 earned runs in 64.2 innings pitched since July 31, for an ERA of 5.15.

He has not been the ace that the Rangers thought they were trading for, but losing him would still have taken one of the team's best starters out of the rotation.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 16:  Pitcher Matt Garza #22 of the Texas Rangers starts against the Tampa Bay Rays September 16, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Rangers currently sit 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the second wild-card berth. They still would have had to deal with a tough schedule down the stretch and still would have struggled without Cruz.

The odds wouldn't have favored Texas even with Upton, especially when assuming his slump would've carried over in the AL. The Rangers wouldn't be in any better position right now had they made the trade, but that doesn't mean Texas wouldn't still like to be sitting on Upton through 2015.

Verdict: No

 

Would the Braves Have Made a Deeper Run in the Playoffs?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 22: The Atlanta Braves celebrate their division championship on September 22, 2013 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Atlanta Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 to clinch the National League East Championship.  (Photo by
David Banks/Getty Images

The reason why the question facing the Rangers and the one facing the Braves are different is because the Braves have essentially had the NL East locked up since they started the year 12-1.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 18:  Justin Upton #8 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Atlanta won th
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Braves have had it easy this season, as the second-best team in their division (the Nationals) have the second-worst record among second-place teams.

Atlanta is a lock for the postseason with or without Upton, but the question facing the team is, could it have made a deeper run? Losing Upton wouldn't have hurt the Braves too much, as his drop off since July 31 has made him much less valuable to the team this year.

The addition of Murphy wouldn't entirely make up for the loss of Upton, but having him as a potential replacement helps. The big move for the Braves in this trade would have been bolstering the pitching staff.

CHICAGO, IL- JULY 9:  Starting pitcher Matt Garza #22 of the Chicago Cubs sits in the dugout during the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Wrigley Field on July 9, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Atlanta could use another starter since Tim Hudson is done for the season after breaking his ankle. Garza could have been that guy, as he was 7-1 with an ERA of 2.95 through the month of July.

While the Braves would have had Garza from August on, the team would have benefited from him pitching against NL teams.

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 21: Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers throws in the ninth inning during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Garza has been much better against the NL this year than the AL, as seen by his stats before he was traded. The bigger benefit for Atlanta would be that Garza would have been another guy who could start in the postseason.

The team would have also added another exceptional reliever in Nathan. While he wouldn't have been the closer, he could have been a great setup man for Craig Kimbrel, giving the team a fantastic back end of the bullpen.

While the Braves already own the best ERA as a team for both starters and relievers, the team could have been even better with Garza and Nathan, and losing Upton's mediocre second-half numbers wouldn't have hurt too much.

Atlanta's decision in this trade was whether it wanted to improve an already-stellar pitching staff or keep a guy who has the potential to break out at any moment.

The Braves are generally the same team with or without this trade, and they likely wouldn't have made it any farther in the postseason.

Verdict: No

 

Conclusion

Sep 14, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton (8) waits on deck against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Padres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Frankly, this trade wouldn't have helped either team all that much this year, and the biggest difference would have been who had control of Justin Upton through the 2015 season.

The Braves simply weren't going to part with a young star for two soon-to-be free agents and a role player. However, even if they had decided to accept the trade, the Braves and Rangers would both be stuck in essentially the same positions.

While this blockbuster trade would have been the biggest of the season, it wouldn't have changed anything. At least not this year.

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