Braves trade Justin Upton to Padres
The San Diego Padres have been one of the busiest teams in baseball this winter. That trend continued on Friday as they acquired outfielder Justin Upton in a six-player trade with the Atlanta Braves.
In return, Atlanta receives a package of prospects including left-hander Max Fried, infielder Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith. The Braves also get the Padres’ fourth international bonus pool slot in the deal.
Upton, 27, is a year away from free agency, which led to rampant speculation the Braves would be shopping his services this winter. He set a career-high with 102 RBI, winning his second career Silver Slugger in 2014. Upton was due to make $14.5 million in the final season of the six-year, $50 million extension he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He was acquired in a trade by Atlanta prior to the 2013 season.
How hard is it to find consistent power threat like Upton?
Over the past two seasons, a player has hit 27 or more home runs on 41 occasions. Just eight men did so in both 2013 and 2014, with Justin Upton the only National League player to accomplish that feat. That power is what made him the most productive hitter in an Atlanta lineup that struggled to score runs last season.
While Petco Park is not exactly a hitters’ haven, Upton has batted .291 with 10 HR and .541 SLG in 192 PA in his career as a visiting player. His “light tower power” shouldn’t be too adversely affected:
First year GM A.J. Preller has pulled off a number of deals to revamp the Padres over the past week, including one that landed star slugger Matt Kemp from the Dodgers on Thursday. San Diego was part of a three-team, 11-player trade that netted former AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
With both Jason Heyward and the younger, more marketable of the Upton brothers now traded, Atlanta’s projected outfield includes the recently-signed Nick Markakis in right, B.J. Upton in center and Evan Gattis in left field. Both manager Fredi Gonzalez and President of Baseball Operations John Hart said the team is open to giving Gattis at-bats as an outfielder, though he could see some time behind the plate as well. Gattis has also been the subject of trade rumors this winter.
As for the Braves’ return for Upton, Fried is the centerpiece of the deal even though he is coming off a lost season. The seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, Fried turns 21 years old in January and entered last season ranked as the #53 prospect in minor league baseball and #3 in the Padres organization according to Baseball America.
He was 6-7 with a 3.49 ERA in 118.2 IP over 23 starts for Low-A Fort Wayne in 2013, striking out 100 batters against 56 walks. Forearm tightness derailed his 2014 campaign before finally leading to “Tommy John” surgery in August.
Jace Peterson, 24, is a versatile infielder who can play second, short and third. He was a 1st round supplemental pick in the 2011 draft (58th pick overall). The lefty hitter owns a career .287/.381/.411 minor league slash line in 1,732 PA. He’s also a solid base runner, evidenced by his 148 stolen bases (78% success rate) over the past three seasons. Peterson batted just .113 in 53 AB with San Diego in 2014. He also saw some action in the Arizona Fall League with the Surprise Saguaros, where he hit .262 with a .360 OBP, collecting nine RBI and eight steals in 22 games.
Third baseman Dustin Peterson, 20, was the Padres 2nd round pick in 2013. He’s of no relation to Jace, but Dustin’s older brother, D.J. Peterson, is likewise a third baseman and was a 1st rounder for Seattle in that very same draft class. The younger Peterson played his first full season in 2014 and batted just .233/.274/.361 with 44 XBH (10 HR) and 25 BB/137 K in A-ball.
Outfielder Mallex Smith, 21, was selected by the Padres in the 5th round of the 2012 draft. He hit .310 /.403/.432 with 88 SB in 120 G between A/A+ last season. Primarily a center fielder, he can play all three spots. Speed is an exciting element of his game. Smith played in the Arizona Fall League alongside Peterson, batting .305 with a .408 OBP in 15 games.
Grant McAuley covers baseball for 92-9 The Game. You can follow Grant on Twitter.