Justin Upton traded to Braves in 7-player deal
In this Sept. 28, 2012, file photo, Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton waits on deck during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Phoenix. / AP Photo/Matt York
PHOENIX Arizona has traded outfielder Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves in a seven-player deal that sends former All-Star infielder Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks.
The Braves also get third baseman Chris Johnson. Atlanta is giving up four minor leaguers in the deal, including top pitching prospect Randy Delgado. The other minor leaguers headed to Arizona are right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury. Prado, projected to play third base for the Diamondbacks, can become a free agent after this season.
Upton, who has five-plus major league seasons but still is just 25 years old, will join older brother B.J. Upton, who recently signed a free agent contract with Atlanta. The younger Upton, who has three years and $38.5 million left on his contract, had been the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason and vetoed a trade to the Seattle Mariners.
Prado, who joins fellow Venezuelan Miguel Montero in Arizona, made the All-Star team in 2010 as a second baseman and played mostly in left field last season. A versatile infielder, Prado was projected to move to third base for the Braves this season to replace the retired Chipper Jones.
Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said via Twitter that the team wants to sign Prado to a long-term deal.
"This is the type of player we want in our lineup," he wrote.
The Braves didn't re-sign centerfielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn and Prado, the No. 2 hitter behind Bourn, had been a candidate to hit leadoff. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons now is expected to assume that role. Simmons hit .289 with a .335 on-base percentage in 49 games as a rookie last season.
Arizona had accumulated a glut of outfielders, signing Cody Ross as a free agent last month. Upton was the most marketable.
Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, raced through the minors and came up to the big league club in August 2007 at age 19. He made the NL All-Star team in 2009 and 2011.
CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder says the Diamondbacks' offseason moves have been head-scratching.
"The trade of Upton in particular at this point is what is most shocking," Snyder writes. "Anyone who makes trades in any walk of life, albeit the stock market or even fantasy baseball, knows you don't sell low with a highly-regarded commodity. Yet that's exactly what (GM Kevin) Towers has done. Upton's value was sky-high after 2011. During the 2012 season, club officials let it be known they had an issue with Upton's attitude. Throughout the offseason, the D-Backs seemed desperate to deal him. Even though he's a star, the Diamondbacks had handcuffed themselves. It's impossible to get back a great package under these circumstances."
Upton has played five full major league seasons, so his best years could well be ahead of him. Last season, he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs but did score a career-high 107 runs. In 2011, while helping Arizona to its surprising NL West crown, Upton hit .289, with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs the latter two categories are career bests and finished fourth in NL MVP voting. Overall, he's a career .278 hitter with 108 home runs, 739 hits, 147 doubles and 80 stolen bases.
Delgado, a 23-year-old right-hander, had been expected to challenge for a spot in the Braves rotation. His acquisition bolsters the young pitching depth in Arizona depleted by the trade of Trevor Bauer. Delgado was 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 appearances, 17 as a starter, for the Braves. Rated Atlanta's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America the past two years, he was 4-3 with a 4.06 ERA with Triple-A Gwinett last season.
The trade leaves Arizona with three veteran outfielders Ross, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra along with two youngsters the team feels are ready for the majors Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. General manager Kevin Towers has praised Eaton's potential as a center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Johnson was acquired by the Diamondbacks on July 29 from Houston and batted .286 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 44 games with Arizona. In Atlanta, he could platoon at third with Juan Francisco.
"Really enjoyed my time in Arizona," Johnson said in a tweet. "Thank you to the Diamondbacks organization and fans for your hospitality!"
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