A trade that had to be made

  • Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:21 a.m.

One of the blessings of the new social media world we live in is it allows me to follow the national perspective on a subject as well as what local residents of a team’s fanbase are saying – all at the same time.

Such was the case with the Atlanta Braves’ trade of Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson on Thursday.

Here’s what a compilation of the sentiment of national analysts and baseball writers would look like: “Wow, both teams got better with this. In fact, the Braves might have gotten the best of the D-Backs in this trade.”

Here’s the compilation from many Braves’ fans: “I mean, we get Upton, great. But at what cost? At what cost, I ask? Martin Prado, we barely knew ye.”

Full disclosure, my initial reaction was much closer to the second group. After all, Prado hit .301 with 10 home runs, 70 RBIs and only 69 strikeouts in 617 at-bats last season. And let’s not forget, he’s shown the ability to start and play extremely well at all four infield positions and the outfield.

Throw in the fact that Prado is a fan favorite, and he begins to look untouchable. But you can’t forget the issue of contract negotiations. Prado and the Braves were unable to come to an agreement on a multi-year extension, and he was set to become a free agent after the season. Because of how valuable he’s proven to be at various positions, his ability to hit .300 or so and his status as a former All-Star, the super-utility man was reportedly asking for $11 or 12 million per year.

If the Braves get what they’re looking for – Upton or not – and get a solid bat in left field, Prado’s versatility becomes less of a need for the Braves. To another team, like the Diamondbacks that is, looking for such a player, Prado may be worth $11 or 12 million. But for the direction the Braves are headed, he’s just not worth that.

So in the end, the Braves were looking at one year of Prado in exchange for three years of Upton, since there’s that much time left on his contract. That’s enough of a no-brainer for a team looking for an everyday left fielder, but don’t overlook the player the Braves got thrown in with their target.

Johnson hit 15 home runs and knocked in 76 runs last year in only 488 at-bats for the Astros and Diamondbacks. Combined in a platoon with the powerful Juan Francisco, third base becomes another position of strength for Atlanta.

There are certainly questions remaining for the Braves. The main one is at the leadoff spot, but that was an issue even with Prado still on the team. He seemed to be the answer, but he’s not the prototypical leadoff hitter.

Another issue is the high strikeout rate that many Atlanta hitters possess. But the upside vastly outweighs that. If Dan Uggla and Brian McCann can right the ship after years hampered by injury and slump, the Braves have no less than seven starters capable of 20 or more home runs.

The eighth is shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a wonderboy with the glove that hit better in limited action than many expected.

Coupled with a strong young pitching staff, the enormous potential of this roster was too hard to pass up, and I’m glad the Braves’ management didn’t.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.

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