So Justin Upton and his brother Melvin Upton Jr. both scored Monday night, while San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel got the save. The three former Atlanta Braves came back to haunt their former team.
That’s right. There is no reason to fret over the fact the three main players involved in two monster trades did damage against the Braves. It won’t change the fact that the Braves are better with all three gone.
Justin Upton and Kimbrel did nothing to warrant criticism. They were both great players for Atlanta and good in the clubhouse. Melvin Upton, well ... he was not.
But the subtraction of all three players has the Braves in better shape moving forward. The first deal sent Justin Upton and a minor league pitcher to San Diego for Jace Peterson and three minor leaguers: Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith and Max Fried.
Who would have ever thought Jace Peterson would become Atlanta’s starting second baseman? Most believed he was only a throw-in from the Padres, but Jace Peterson has become one of the bright spots in Atlanta this season. Peterson is playing solid defense and has exceeded expectations so much the Braves have moved projected future second baseman Jose Peraza to the outfield in Triple-A.
Dustin Peterson is a 20-year-old who has successfully made a transition from third base to left field. And Dustin Peterson’s offense has been really impressive. His average is 62 points higher than last season, while his on-base percentage is 104 points higher than his 2014 effort.
Smith might be Atlanta’s next center fielder. He’s in Double-A now, hitting .341 with a .420 OBP, along with 19 stolen bases. Smith is a legitimate leadoff man, and he might be ready to contribute in Atlanta in 2016.
Then there’s Fried, who was a top pitching prospect before having Tommy John surgery a year ago. That’s the only way the Braves could have acquired Fried, as he was so highly rated before the injury that there is no way the Padres would have let him go. The Braves expect him to regain that top prospect status when he returns later this season.
Oh, and the Braves happened to get international bonus slots from San Diego in this trade, which allowed them to sign eight players.
So that’s one starter in Atlanta, two serious offensive prospects, a potential top pitching prospect and eight long-term international prospects for Justin Upton, who was likely to leave Atlanta after his contract expires this season.
Then three months later, the Braves rid themselves of Melvin Upton and his ridiculous contract. To do it, they had to give up Kimbrel, who was considered at the time the best closer in baseball.
The Braves didn’t need the best closer in baseball in a transitional season. But they had to get rid of Melvin Upton’s contract, which had almost $46 million remaining for the next three seasons.
But the return for those two has been tremendous. Atlanta got Cameron Maybin, who is having the best season of his career. Maybin is reminding us how a center fielder is supposed to play. The Braves got Matt Wisler, who is having a great season in Triple-A and is the top pitching prospect in the organization. They got Jordan Paroubeck, a young outfielder in rookie ball. Plus, the Braves got a draft pick, which they used Monday night to select a high school catcher out of California.
Oh, and they’re saving about $52 million from having Melvin Upton and Kimbrel’s contracts off the books.
Justin Upton is having a great season, and he’s going to strike it rich in free agency this winter. But the Braves likely were never going to be able to compete for his services moving forward. Kimbrel actually has struggled, compared to what he did in Atlanta. And Melvin Upton, well, everyone is just glad he’s gone.
The Braves are winning these two trades, and that has helped steer the course for the organization with younger and better talent. It might take awhile to completely show that talent, but on paper, it’s not even close.
So don’t be upset if the Uptons or Kimbrel do something good in the next two days while the Padres are in Atlanta. Just smile and be glad to know the Braves are much better off having all three gone.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.