That all changed Thursday as the Diamondbacks agreed to send the 25-year-old and third baseman Chris Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, minor league prospects SP Zeke Spruill, SS Nick Ahmed & 1B Brandon Drury.
Talks intensified late Wednesday as it was reported by a number of outlets the Braves made a ''strong offer'' for Upton. No one knew exactly what general manager Frank Wren offered to Arizona, but it was strongly speculated it would be centered around top pitching prospect Julio Teheran.
The trade was agreed to in the morning as it was announced that Prado would be the centerpiece sent to Arizona. Prado was considered a fan favorite in Atlanta and a lot of the Braves faithful are upset to see him go.
Atlanta was unable to avoid arbitration with the 29-year-old as the Peter Greenburg client requested north of $7 million in arbitration while the Braves were willing to pay in the area of $6-6.5 million. With one year left on his contract, the price was too high to keep him long-term.
It was reported by David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Prado was looking for $11-12 million annually in a long-term deal. That simply is too much to pay with Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen eventually needing long-term contracts.
Delgado compiled a 4-9 record and a 4.37 ERA in 17 starts with the Braves in 2012. The 22-year-old was also involved in rumors near the trade deadline last season for then Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, but eventually fell through. He will add depth in the rotation and give GM Kevin Towers a young piece to play with moving forward.
Spruill had a solid season for the Double-A Mississippi Braves in 2012 as he posted a 9-11 mark with a 3.67 ERA in 27 starts. He posted a 2-2 mark in 22.1 innings with a 3.63 ERA and 13 strikeouts for the Devil Dogs in the Arizona Fall League as well.
Arizona received a solid package in return for Upton, but Atlanta did not give up any of their top prospects such as J.R. Graham, Christian Bethancourt, Sean Gilmartin and Teheran.
Justin joins his brother B.J. Upton in the Atlanta outfield. B.J. inked a free-agent contract earlier in the offseason.
Combined for 72 home runs and 70 steals in 2012, the Upton brothers and Heyward are going to bring an element of speed and power to the lineup and the outfield. It will be difficult to sneak a ball ahead or behind them. The only way to know they won't catch a ball is if an opposing hitter crushes a ball 410 feet over the wall. It's a rarity that an outfield has the skill set that the Atlanta Braves possess.
Both Uptons bring a right-handed presence to a lineup that was lefty dominant. Heyward, Freeman and Brian McCann are all prime left-handed hitters in their lineup. It will be tough for opposing managers to play the matchups with the bullpen. Manager Fredi Gonzalez can play the lineup a number of ways.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons will likely lead off. Catcher Gerald Laird, who will be the starter until McCann comes back from injury, could hit eighth. Then it's a matter of balancing out the lineup.
Johnson will also head to Atlanta in this blockbuster trade. The 28-year-old was a fourth-round selection by the Houston Astros in the 2006 draft. Johnson played in 92 games with Houston and 44 with Arizona last year and knocked out 15 homers, drove in 76 runs with a .281 average.
Johnson and Juan Francisco will likely platoon at the hot corner to replace Chipper Jones, who retired after last season.
It will be an interesting debate who wins the N.L East between Atlanta and Washington. The Nationals acquired Denard Span from the Twins, sent Michael Morse to Seattle in a three-team trade, re-signed first baseman Adam Laroche and inked pitchers Dan Haren and Rafael Soriano to free agent contracts.
I want to gain a pulse of my readers. What are your thoughts on the Upton blockbuster and who is the favorite in the N.L. East?
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