Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers finally accomplished the goal he set for himself when he took over as the GM of the Diamondbacks a few years ago, and that is he finally traded Justin Upton. He has tried to trade the star outfielder for the past two seasons, to no avail. Yet, the return is not what he, or Diamondback fans, expected. He did not get one of the top young pitching prospects in the game (Taijuan Walker was rumored to be part of the Upton to the Mariners deal), or a top hitting prospect like Wil Myers, which is what the Rays received in return for starter James Shields. No, he received a 29 year old third baseman. with lots of contact ability and little power, a decent pitching prospect and a few other minor leaguers.
The trade went down earlier this morning:
Braves get: Justin Upton and Chris Johnson
Diamondbacks get: Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Drury
Some might think that Upton's fantasy value drops with the move out of Chase Field and into Turner Field, but I don't see it that way. Chase Field increased run scoring by 17% and home runs by 19% last season, while Turner Field increased run scoring by just 4% and suppressed home runs at a 13% rate, but Upton is an excellent power hitter when healthy, so I don't see how power being impacted at all with the trade. Upton is a career .250 hitter away from Chase Field and a career .307 hitter at Chase Field, but many hitters hit better at home than on the road, so I wouldn't focus on that split and determine that Upton's value takes a hit with this deal.
On the contrary. I think Upton will be just fine in the excellent Atlanta lineup in 2013. Upton had a down power year in 2012, mainly due to an injured thumb early in the season, so if the thumb is healthy, I expect the power to return. Upton has been in the league for five seasons now, yet just turned 25 years of age last August. He is just starting his peak years as a hitter, so his fantasy value does not change. Although his power was down last season, he did score 100+ runs, hit .280 and stole 18 bases. I see him approaching the 30 home run level in 2013, with a chance to steal 15-20 bases.
Prado's value improves a bit though, as he will be moving out of Turner Field and into Chase Field, but I wouldn't expect him to hit more than 15-16 home runs this season. He should continue to be a .300 hitter in the DBacks lineup, with a chance to score a few more runs in the better hitting environment.
Chris Johnson now becomes the Braves third baseman, and could platoon with whiff artist Juan Francisco, but I see Johnson garnering more at bats in 2013. His fantasy value may drop slightly with the move to Atlanta, but he is nothing more than a late round selection in mixed league drafts this season anyway.
Who wins this trade? I think the Braves did very well in the deal, in the short term and the long term. They now have one of the better hitting outfields in the game, with all three between the ages of 23-28, and all three with excellent power/speed tools.