Justin Upton, a target this offseason for the Rangers, has been traded to the Atlanta Braves. Let’s compare the haul Arizona got from the Braves with the Rangers’ rumored offering.
Braves get Justin Upton and Chris Johnson (3B). Arizona gets Martin Prado (3B, UT), Randall Delgado (RHP), Nick Ahmed (SS), Zeke Spruill (RHP) and Brandon Drury (1B).
The Rangers offer for Justin Upton was Mike Olt (3B), either Martin Perez (LHP) or Cody Buckel (RHP), Luery Garcia (SS) and another prospect.
In this deal it’s important to note how many years of control the teams would get over their new players. Justin Upton will be under the Braves’ control for three years at a cost of about $13 million a year. Martin Prado, the headliner in deal for Arizona, will only be there for one year if they don’t extend his contract. If the Diamondbacks had accepted the Rangers’ offer, they would have had Michael Olt for six years and pennies when compared to Prado.
It is rumored that the Braves traded Prado because his agent was seeking a $10-11 million extension. Fox Sports’ Jack Magruder reports that the DBacks expect to sign Prado to an extension. Let’s say the DBacks do extend Prado, and his agent uses his leverage to get Prado a $11-12 million contract (“you don’t want to NOT resign my client after trading Upton for him, do you?”). Now Arizona is paying Prado only about $1 million less a year than they were going to pay Upton. Don’t get me wrong – Prado is a versatile, offensively underrated player that will certainly help the team. But he is 29 and on the wrong end of the growth curve, while Upton is 25 and still has MVP potential. If the DBacks extend Prado, they’ll be paying for the player’s past performance rather than his prime years.
Would Arizona had been better off if they accepted Texas’ offer? Yes and no. Mike Newman of Fangraphs.com calls Arizona’s prospect haul in their deal with the Braves “underwhelming,” noting that “this trade really is all about Martin Prado.” The prospect haul would have been rated much better if they got Mike Olt for six years, one of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects and Garcia, a shortstop whose stock is rising. But Arizona is in a weird position of trying to win now while still retooling their team. The Rangers’ offer would not help Arizona win now – Mike Olt needs refinement and Martin Perez and Cody Buckel are fifth starters at best, at the moment. None of the prospects Arizona received from Atlanta are any closer to MLB ready, either. Randall Delgado was once a top pitching prospect but his subpar performance in MLB in 2011 and 2012 has seen his stock drop.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was probably right not to accept the Rangers’ offer if he wanted MLB proven talent in return for Upton. However, by accepting the Braves’ offer, Towers did not make his team any better in the present, and only made it marginally better in the future. Mike Newman may have said that “this trade is all about Martin Prado,” but he’s wrong. This trade is all about Arizona’s determination to unload Justin Upton. A trade was made for the sake of making a trade, and that’s not how a successful organization operates.