The biggest question in baseball right now is where will Justin Upton play next season? We know for a fact that the Braves are trying to trade Upton and reports earlier this week is that he will be moved. There are reports of an executive from another team said, “Justin Upton will be moved.”
As a Braves fan, Justin Upton was one of my favorite players to watch the past two seasons. You knew every time he came to bat that the ball could be heading for the heavens. I remember when we traded for him, I was so excited thinking the Braves have put together a team that could do the unthinkable, win a playoff series. But then reality set in and I realized that it would take more than the occasional home run to win a game or a playoff series. The Braves could never get anything going, finishing third in 2013 in team strikes and fourth in 2014. Justin Upton would contribute his fair share those seasons, with 161 in 2013 and 171 in 2014. Those were career highs each season for him.
I have began to think that the Braves are cursed with bad luck, as it seems that every time we get a great player it just never works out. Upton is a great player and I think once he leaves Atlanta he will excel like he did in 2011, he hit 39 homers and batted .289 that season. Why couldn’t the Braves have that Upton? Not to mention the Braves signed Justin’s older brother B.J. to a five-year, $75 million deal. It was a great two years watching Upton hit a homer once in a while, but his blunders in the field makes me glad that the Braves are getting rid of him. Don’t get me wrong Upton is a great player, but he didn’t fit well in Atlanta. I’m done with my rant now, I will say there is less than a one percent chance that Justin Upton is in a Braves uniform next season.
If I had to guess right now, Upton will land in Seattle. He recently took the Mariners off his no-trade list and all of the talk has been pointing their way. They also have what the Braves love, a surplus of pitching, with Taijaun Walker being the primary target. Walker is just 22 years-old and was great in the short time that he pitched in the majors last season. He spent most of his time in the minors, pitching just 38 innings for the Mariners. If the Braves were to get Walker it would give them a core pitching staff of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, and Walker. All four of those guys are under 25 and I believe that would be the best pitching staff in baseball when the Braves move to their new park in 2017. But, the big question for me is who else would the Braves try and get in a deal for Walker? Walker has a high potential, but he hasn’t played much in the big leagues yet.
Justin Upton is entering his prime and will easily hit 35 homers a year in Seattle. The catcher for everybody is, what will Upton do after the season when he becomes a free-agent? I think if Seattle makes a trade with the Braves, they will need a guarantee that Upton will sign with them after the season. If they can’t make an agreement, I can see Atlanta also trading Evan Gattis, that would give Seattle two right-handed power bats. It would also leave the Braves without corner outfielders.
I could see a trade were the Braves give Gattis and Upton for Walker and D.J. Peterson. Peterson plays third base and is the number two prospect for the Mariners. Seattle already has a third baseman in Kyle Seager, who isn’t a free-agent until 2018. Peterson is already 22 years old and will be 23 in a month. The Braves really need a third baseman, with Chris Johnson not providing any power and being so poor on defense. While Peterson would fix the defensive problem, he would give Atlanta a power bat in the lineup in a year or two. In that deal the Mariners would get two power bats in their lineup and contend next season. Back in July, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said their is no chance they will trade Peterson, but Upton wasn’t available at the time. Peterson has yet to prove himself in the majors, while Upton has proved to be a great hitter when healthy. I know that some Seattle fans don’t want to give him up, but I think the Braves will try and get the most that they can. I don’t see that trade happening unless the Braves give up Gattis and another play.
The more realistic trade is Upton for Walker and a bench player in my opinion.
The Texas Rangers are another team that has contacted the Braves about Upton, but I think the Rangers are hunting down some help on their pitching staff. The Rangers don’t have the pieces to trade for Upton in my opinion or at least the type of players the Braves are looking for.
#Rangers have spoken with #Braves about Justin Upton, as @Joelsherman1 said. Also have liked Upton in past. Pitching is more current focus.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 23, 2014
The Rangers have said that Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro are untouchable and I think that right there tell you that their not really interested. Texas still has a few more prospects that the Braves might be interested in, Luke Jackson and Nick Williams. Jackson is already 23 and isn’t living up to his potential in the minors, but the Braves are really good at turing a pitcher around. Williams is a 21 year old outfielder, who might remind some people of Jason Heyward. Williams is a lefty that hit 13 homers, with a .283 batting average in the minors this season. He is also an excellent fielder and can run when you need him to. I think Williams is a get if the Braves strike a deal with the Rangers.
Anther team I think is the New York Yankees, who pursued Upton in 2012 when he was being traded by Arizona. I don’t think that a trade with the Yankees would be in the Braves best interest. New York has two prospects ranked in the top 100 right now and one of them is pitcher Luis Severino, who had an ERA of 2.46 in the minors this season. I think the Yankees would give up Gardner and one of their top prospects for Upton, but I highly doubt that the Yankees have what the Braves want.
The last team that I could see get Upton is the San Diego Padres. San Diego is in high pursuit of a bat this offseason, with offers to Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas. If the Padres fail to get Tomas, I could see them going after Upton, especially if the Braves are the team that lands Tomas. San Diego has plenty of great pitching and could part ways with a few of them in exchange for a game changing bat. The one reason I think that the Padres wouldn’t want Upton is based on their park being a pitcher’s park. Could Upton hit more than 20 homers at Petco Park? I highly doubt it with Yasmani Grandal leading the team last season with 15 homers. San Diego would have to give up Max Fried or Matthew Wisler in a trade to go with either a bench player or a veteran pitcher. I don’t think that San Diego will want to give up any top prospects and for that reason I don’t think they are a good fit.
If I had to choose where I think Upton will land my vote would be Seattle. We still have three months till spring training and a lot can happen and a team I didn’t even mention could land Upton.