Heading into the 2013 season, all signs point to the Atlanta Braves as being the Nationals’ most formidable challenge for another N.L. East division championship. They won 94 games in 2012, they are young, and they are one of the most balanced teams in the National League.
Atlanta has made a few changes this winter, but overall doesn’t seem to be that much better or worse: not yet at least.
According to a new report, the Braves are getting closer to pulling off one of the biggest deals of the offseason. Long rumored to be on the trading block, Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton is now being connected to the Braves and Atlanta is considered the frontrunner for the two-time All-Star.
D-Backs talks with the Braves about JUpton have resumed; ATL said to be in hard on this. They're likely the frontrunner, if JUpton is dealt.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 23, 2013
The Braves earlier this offseason signed his older brother, B.J. Upton, to a five-year deal worth $75 million. They also already have Jason Heyward in right field, a 23 year old budding superstar. Adding the other Upton would give the Braves a trio of strong defensive outfielders, each with potential to hit 20+ home runs and steal 20+ bases. The versatility and youth would be unrivaled and would certainly increase their chances of contention in 2013.
The specifics of the offer are still unclear, no details as far as other players involved have emerged. One educated guess would be one of Atlanta’s young pitchers as their rotation seems pretty set. Right-hander Julio Teheran is still just 21 and projects as a potential ace. He was considered to be the best pitching prospect in baseball just a year ago or so. But if the Braves keep Teheran for 2013, he will be on the outside of the rotation looking in.
The Braves already have a solid starting rotation and arguably the best bullpen in the majors. And according to Baseball America, seven of their top ten prospects are pitchers with Teheran atop the list.
Upton was part of another trade proposal earlier this season, one involving the Seattle Mariners, but he used his no-trade clause to nix it. Seattle was prepared to send a substantial package of young prospects to Arizona in exchange for the young outfielder, but they were on a list of four teams he had designated under the provision.
Upton, 25, holds a .278/.357/.475 career slash with 108 homers and 80 stolen bases in six major league seasons. His best season was in 2011 when he hit .289 with 31 home runs, 88 RBI, and 21 steals.
The Diamondbacks acquired Upton with the first overall pick in the 2005 MLB amateur draft. They are said to be considering the Braves' undisclosed offer and a decision could come down soon.
Nats fans: If the Braves get Upton, do they become the favorites in the N.L. East?