Braves win Diamondbacks' outfielder sweepstakes

Norm Hall

Hey, real quick, when's the last time a team had two brothers serving as every-day outfielders?

That's a terrible question, because I don't know the answer. I guessed Felipe Alou and one of his brothers -- Matty or Jesus, that is -- but they were never regulars at the same time, with Felipe leaving the Giants for the Braves in 1964. For most of the spring of '65, though, brothers Matty Alou and Jesus Alou were regulars; the arrangement ended because Matty just didn't hit. Which seems odd now, considering that the very next season, Matty -- having been traded from the Giants to the Pirates -- actually led the National League with a .342 batting average. Baseball players are funny, sometimes.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there (well, maybe a little there). I cheated with the Google machine and was reminded of Billy and Tony Conigliaro, both of whom played regularly for the Red Sox in 1971. Even with my cheating, I haven't found anybody since the Conigliaros, though. Which makes the prospect of a majority-Upton outfield all the more appealing.

Of greater import, to Braves fans anyway, is what Justin Upton will do for their lineup. One odd thing: The Braves already had a pretty good left fielder, in Martín Prado. This is where we point out that in 2012, Prado was good for roughly six Wins Above Replacement, while Justin Upton was worth only two or three. However, that huge difference is due almost completely to Prado being rated highly has a fielder, and Upton being ranked poorly. Their history suggests that 2012 was a blip, fielding-wise, and that Upton will be roughly as good as Prado in 2013.

For much, much more about the Diamondbacks and Braves, please visit AZ Snakepit and .

So from the Braves' perspective, this seems pretty straightforward. They traded a really good player who's eligible for free agency after this season for a really good player who's signed through 2015.

But of course there was more to it than that. The Diamondbacks also sent third baseman Chris Johnson to the Braves, for whom he's expected to serve in a third-base platoon with Juan Francisco. A few wags have pointed out that the right-handed-hitting Johnson has actually hit right-handed pitchers better than lefties in his career, but that's just a statistical wobble; he's got only 151 plate appearances against lefties. Johnson/Francisco won't be Chipper/Jones, but it should be decent enough.

Meanwhile, in addition to Prado the Diamondbacks are getting erstwhile prospect Randall Delgado and three prospects ... none of whom are graded higher than B- by John Sickels. From John's wrap of the deal:

These three prospects combined with Prado and Delgado strikes me as a fairly weak haul for Upton, and it certainly isn't as good as what the Mariners reportedly offered last week, and what the Rangers were rumored to be offering.

There are legitimate concerns about Delgado, who's never been truly dominant and has been homer-prone since being promoted from Class AA in 2011. On the other hand, he's not quite 23 years old and was rated by Baseball America as the No. 46 prospect in baseball just a year ago.

So there are a lot of ways this deal could wind up looking not so terrible for the Diamondbacks. Prado could play well this year, sign a contract extension, and continue playing well. Delgado could develop into a solid major-league starter or a lights-out reliever. One of the prospects could turn into something. If two of those three things happen, this certainly won't qualify as a major gaffe.

I suspect it will never qualify as a gaffe in the mind of Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, though. It seems pretty clear that Towers believed that Justin Upton was simply not going to live up to his early promise. And even if Upton thrives in Atlanta, Towers might always say, "It wouldn't have happened if he'd stayed here."

He might be right. We'll never know. But if Upton thrives and two of those three things don't happen, it's going to be counted against Towers. And for Frank Wren. That's just how these things work, fairly or not.

One does, it should be said, get the impression that Kevin Towers is playing the long game, and doesn't have any real intention of competing with the Giants and the Dodgers in 2013. Which is not a terribly unreasonable position, given any reasonable person's projected National League West standings. And that would have been true even if Towers had held on to Upton and traded Jason Kubel. The Diamondbacks are rebuilding, even if they won't come right out and say it.

For more on the big trade and so much more, please visit AZ Snakepit and Talking Chop.

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