With their Super Bowl dreams coming to an end on Sunday, Atlanta fans have probably turned their attention to baseball. Well, the Braves gave them something to get excited about and help ease the pain. Atlanta acquired Justin Upton and Chris Johnson from the Diamondbacks today in exchange for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and three prospects.
Justin Upton joins his brother B.J. Upton in the Braves outfield, who Atlanta dished out some serious money (5-year, $75M deal) to earlier this offseason. If nothing else, trading for Justin Upton proves the Braves are not ready to hand over a second straight division title to the Nats.
Justin is the younger Upton who boasts more power than the speedy B.J but both have pop and will be threats no matter where they are placed in that already young and talented lineup. Acquiring Chris Johnson is also important to fill the void at third base left by Chipper Jones. No one is saying that Chris Johnson will produce like Chipper, but at least he’s better than their previous replacements.
It must be a thrill for the two brothers to get to play on the same team again – like in little league, except for a lot more money and visibility. The acquisition of Upton definitely seems worth giving up Prado, Delgado and three unproven prospects. Atlanta wants to win now and I’m sure their exit in the inaugural NL Wild Card game on a controversial infield fly call only fuels that desire.
There’s no doubt that the Nationals and Braves are the cream of the crop in the division. After that there is a steep fall off to the Phillies, who just don’t stack up to the Braves and Nats with their lineup or rotation. There’s still plenty of talent in Philly but they can’t seem to stay healthy anymore and they will need everyone to be 100% to compete against Atlanta and Washington.
Unfortunately, then there is an even steeper fall to my favorite team the Mets. Their only free-agent signing this offseason occurred today by giving Shaun Marcum a 1-year deal. We can definitely use an above-average right-hander in the rotation but this is not comparable with trading for Justin Upton. Apparently the Mets have serious interest in free agent Michael Bourn. That’s interesting and he would be a very worthy signing, giving us a much needed outfielder and a productive leadoff man. Atlanta’s crowded, Upton-filled outfield means a return to Atlanta for Bourn is out of the question. He is costly though and the Mets are not exactly rolling in it. Ultimately, a Michael Bourn signing would go a long way for the Mets but they’re still only the 4th best team in their division entering Spring Training, which is discouraging.
I’ll still be optimistic on opening day, as I always am. (Maybe the Mets will be this year’s A’s or maybe it will all click or maybe some of the role players will turn into reliable stars). But realistically, given what has gone on within the division this offseason, it feels like we’re still at least 1 or 2 seasons away from being serious contenders again. There’s a lot of holes to fill and questions to answer and Sandy and company are taking their time in doing so.
I trust Sandy to make the right decision. If he feels that this free agent class is especially weak and not worth the inflated salaries they are demanding, then that’s fine. At least we didn’t spend hundreds of millions before opening our new stadium, fail to win, give up, dump everyone and basically have a minor league roster like the Marlins.
Overall, Justin Upton to the Braves is definitely a win for Atlanta. The NL East will be competitive to say the least. Right now most feel that competition will be probably be between the Braves, Nats and maybe Phillies. They still have to play the games though. Anything can happen on the field. 18 days until pitchers and catchers.