We've gotten spoiled by Twitter. Most deals occur, so to speak, well before they actually do -- reporters with their ear to the ground usually break major free agent signings or trades well before they're officially announced by the team. At the rate information is now consumed, that lead time can be days, hours, or even minutes. That's why I love it when a team just drops a bomb out of nowhere, like the Mariners have done a few times. Today, it's a blockbuster from St. Louis and Atlanta.
St. Louis Cardinals trade RHP Shelby Miller & RHP Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves for OF Jason Heyward & RHP Jordan Walden.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) November 17, 2014
Twitter explosion. Some anger from Mariners fans as well, who have pointed towards at Atlanta for a possible outfield upgrade all summer. Shelby Miller and his 2014 0.2 fWAR don't seem like much of a return, but it is only for a single year of Heyward. And MLB front offices don't evaluate players like we do -- Miller was once a blue chip prospect who has posted great/good ERAs over the past two seasons.
Justin Upton only has a year of control left himself, and the Braves might very well be on their way to blowing things up after also trading away their starting second baseman, Tommy La Stella.
As Zach Sanders points out, there's really no reason for Atlanta to hold on to Justin Upton for a single year if the Braves aren't going to contend, and after certainly making an already-iffy team worse with the loss of Ervin Santana (free agency) and Heyward, it might be full fire sale time. The Braves are shifting around upper management, but haven't been hesitant to be one of the more active teams early in the offseason, especially with this blockbuster. They're open for business. Future business.
There's some potential matches between the Mariners and Braves. Not only have the M's been linked to Justin Upton multiple times, but many have also placed Evan Gattis as a logical OF/1B/DH type in Seattle. The Braves would have to crater out their outfield to trade both Upton and Gattis, but it's a long offseason, and at the least trading Upton makes sense for Atlanta.
We've discussed Upton a lot, and had they traded Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin for him back in January of 2013, they might have been a playoff team by now. They also might not have signed Robinson Cano. Whatever. What's done is done, but Upton can't reject a deal to Seattle anymore, as he presumably a) saw the club's 2014 turnaround b) decided he really liked sleeping on planes. Either way, the Mariners aren't on his no-trade list anymore, so the player they've always wanted can come to Seattle without any say. And we know how the Mariners like to force people to Seattle, whether they like it or not.
So let's talk about Justin Upton.
|2015 Steamer Projection|
However, the Braves do have a hole at 2nd base that needs to be filled. While Jose Peraza may be the future at second (recently rated the Braves #1 prospect by John Sickels), he's still a ways away, and has much to prove at the higher levels of the minors. Brad Miller or Chris Taylor could fill that gap until Peraza is ready, giving them an MLB-ready piece in exchange for a year of Upton's services. Roenis Elias could also be a match, as could various minor league pieces, namely D.J. Peterson.
Upton is an obvious fit if the Mariners choose to rent. They've got a gaping hole in a corner outfield spot, and even if Michael Saunders isn't dealt there's a spot for Upton's bat in the lineup every single day. He'd instantly upgrade the offense, and perhaps give them the push they need to get over the top. But they'll likely have to do so by trading away some MLB talent, and sacrificing that depth or giving up on untapped potential is a risky manuever.
I'll admit that I'm fairly risk-adverse when it comes to rentals, and that the idea of trading for a single year is still foreign to me, as the Mariners haven't been in this position for a long time. Upton makes sense, but there's still a mental red flag that he's going to cost more than he's worth.
Ackley for Upton makes sense on paper, but if Ackley's second half is real, there's a very real chance the swap could be lateral, and then the Mariners would be sacrificing the extra years of Ackley's control in exchange for one of Upton. If it isn't real, then it may be a missed opportunity to sell high on him. This is generally why I prefer the Mariners use Chris Taylor and his inflated BABIP to find an upgrade in the outfield, and then make another addition near the 2015 trade deadline if Dustin Ackley busts once again. Hopefully it isn't too late.
So this isn't really a recommendation for Upton, though there's clearly a fit to be had between the two teams if the Braves decide to trade more outfielders. Evan Gattis probably makes more sense, but that's a separate post and less likely now that Heyward is gone. If Upton comes for pieces that don't take away from the 2015 Mariners as they currently stand, then it could be worth it. If he comes for Chris Taylor, that's something I'm comfortable with. But based on the return they got for Heyward, it doesn't seem feasible.