Uptons will elevate Braves

dshirley@macon.comJanuary 24, 2013 

The Atlanta Braves made one big splash early in the offseason with an Upton.

Another one huge wave came Thursday with another Upton, and it will be an even bigger move for the team.

The Braves signed B.J. Upton earlier in the offseason to a free agent contract, and that moved solidified the team in center field for several years. Upton is a terrific talent, and he adds exactly what the Braves needed in center field and in the lineup.

Since then, there had been rumors that the Braves would trade to land Upton’s brother, Justin, in a trade with Arizona. That looked like a long shot as the Diamondbacks were in talks with Texas and Seattle, among others.

In short, any team would want Justin Upton. He’s that good of a player, and he is locked into a contract for a couple more years.

So the Braves just kind of stayed low in the weeds and waited for other teams to make their offers and do their best to land Justin Upton. Those other deals, however, didn’t work out, and the Diamondbacks grew more frustrated with that and more eager to move him.

That made it the perfect time for the Braves to swoop in and get Justin Upton away from Arizona. They did just that Thursday, and the Braves and Braves fans have to be extremely excited about the prospects for this season. Landing Justin Upton took a big offer from the Braves and cost the team several talented players, but it’s worth it.

Justin Upton sliding into left field gives Atlanta the most athletic outfield in baseball, with B.J. Upton in center and Jason Heyward in right. That’s a scary proposition for Braves opponents. They’re all terrific all-around talents and can do a lot of damage at the plate and in the outfield, and those three will make up the core of the team, along with Freddie Freeman, for the next few years.

The only real negative of the trade is sending Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks. Prado has done everything the team has asked of him and has played any position he has been asked to, and he is really underrated as a player and a talent in the league. He certainly will be missed.

Prado appeared to be ready to slide into third base and fill some of the huge hole left by Chipper Jones, but that won’t be the case now. Instead, the Braves got Chris Johnson in the trade, and he likely will get that chance now.

If Johnson can get the job done, or at least be part of a solid platoon with Juan Francisco, the trade strengthens the Braves in two keys spots and makes them really dangerous for the upcoming season.

There are still some questions to be answered. Will Dan Uggla ever hit consistently? Can Andrelton Simmons handle a full season at shortstop? How does losing Tommy Hanson hurt the rotation? Will Brian McCann be healthy?

Atlanta doesn’t have a perfect team, for sure, and no team is a lock for the playoffs. But the Braves are in terrific shape, and landing yet another Upton gives the team time to answer those questions and do big things this season.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com.

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