Justin Upton trade is latest chapter of Braves’ strip down (UPDATED)

Justin Upton joins Jason Heyward as an ex-Brave. Freddie Freeman: still here. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Justin Upton joins Jason Heyward as an ex-Brave. Freddie Freeman: still here. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Justin Upton joins Jason Heyward as an ex-Brave. But Freddie Freeman is still here. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

The Braves traded outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego Friday. For a fully updated column on MyAJC.com, click here.

Below is the early blog on the trade

So here’s the good news from the Braves this week: They bought a parking lot.

While the franchise continues to release artist renderings and acquire land for a new stadium in 2017, the Braves’ on-field product continued to be stripped down Friday. A month after trading one-time projected franchise centerpiece Jason Heyward to St. Louis, team president John Hart dealt the team’s leading home run and RBI man Justin Upton to San Diego Friday.

No Upton. No Heyward. So the Braves are now looking at a starting outfield of Evan Gattis, B.J. Upton and Nick Markakis. Good seats still available.

The Braves have not officially announced the deal yet. But according to multiple reports, Upton, whose exit had been anticipated since the end of last season, was dealt to the Padres for a package of four prospects, including left-handed pitcher Max Fried. Fried is a former first-round draft pick and was considered one of the game’s top prospects but underwent Tommy John surgery in August.

So there you go: The key to this deal for the Braves is a pitcher coming off major surgery.

Also reportedly headed to the Braves: second and third baseman Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith. Jace Peterson is the only one of the three who played in the majors (27 games last season, hitting .113, 6-for-53).

After dealing Heyward to the Cardinals for pitcher Shelby Miller, Hart said the trade was as much about today as tomorrow. But make no mistake: All of these moves are about tomorrow, particularly this one.

Upton (scheduled to make $14.5 million in 2015) and Heyward ($7.8 million) become unrestricted free agents after next season. The Braves’ chances of signing either will slim, at best, for two reasons: 1) The uncertain direction of a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001; 2) Self-imposed budget constraints, created in part by the $13.2 million still owed to Dan Uggla and the $46.35 million (over three years) still owed B.J. Upton, that would preclude the club from outbidding other teams.

So Hart and John Coppolella, the team’s general manager-in-waiting, have shifted into full strip-down and rebuild mode. Don’t be surprised. But feel free to look at them sideways next season when they’re marketing season ticket packages.

Fried, 20, was San Diego’s first draft pick (seventh overall) in 2o12. Before his elbow injury, he appeared in 38 games (37 starts) in the minors and went 6-9 with a 3.61 ERA in 147 innings.

Hart is determined to rebuild the pitching staff. But an already anemic offense will take a hit in the interim.

“Let’s be honest: This team finished 29th in offense,” Hart told me last week. “It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees.”

He’s right. But in trading Heyward and Upton, the Braves’ starting outfield right now suspect at best. At the other end of the spectrum: San Diego, whose new general manager A.J. Preller has put together a starting outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp.

The Braves’ struggled to score runs in 2014. But Upton and Heyward created a significant portion of the offense they had. Upton led the team in home runs (29) and RBI (102), ranked second in total bases (278), third in batting average (.270) and second in OPS (on-base percentage and slugging percentage, .833). He struck out a lot (171) and ran hot-and-cold, but he was a solid player and not a problem in the clubhouse.

Heyward ranked second on the team in hits (155) and batting average (.271), third in total bases (220), third in RBI (58), despite mostly hitting leadoff, fourth in OPS (.735), tied for the lead in stolen bases (20) and third in runs scored (74).

Conclusion: The Braves won’t be the ’27 Yankees next season, either.


A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: After crushing Cavs, Hawks (18-7) have earned some attention
— MyAJC: Expect Falcons’ roster overhaul, regardless of finish
— AJC: 5 thoughts on Falcons, starting with Arthur Blank’s marketing problem
— MyAJC: John Hart: ‘It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees’
— AJC: Falcons reality check: One great half won’t get it done
— AJC: What would it take for Falcons to keep Mike Smith
 — MyAJC: Hawks go from off-cour embarrassment to on-court success
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— AJC: Jimbo Fisher leaves Georgia off ballot; Bielema puts Tech 19th on his (huh?)
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— MyAJC: SEC title: Mizzou can’t compete with Alabama –nor can any team
— AJC: Short takes: Sims leads way as Alabama rules SEC again
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Georgia Tech ends Florida State’s run
— AJC: New rankings make college football playoff look like set up
— MyAJC: Rare situation: Eyes are off Bulldogs and on Jackets
— MyAJC: Tech’s Bobinski finally stops stalling with Johnson
— AJC: Georgia Tech finally offers Johnson contract extension
— MyAJC: Finally, a real football team named Falcons shows up
— AJC: Falcons’ short takes: Devin Hester says officials admitted mistake
— MyAJC: This Georgia season was just another big tease
— AJC: Georgia ‘short takes’ on loss to Georgia Tech
— MyAJC: As Georgia loses SEC title shot, Tech suddenly has higher ceiling
— AJC: Missouri wins SEC East — will it affect Georgia?

Reader Comments 0

217 comments
speedster16
speedster16

WE'LL SEE.

New stadium being built.

WE'LL SEE.

New team .

WE'LL SEE.

IF THEY DON'T win more games this  season than last season,I doubt very seriously that fans will pay to complete the new stadium.AND THE SCRAP IRON that is STILL in the front office - along with FREDDIE GONZALES AND strikeout jinx BJ UPTON - will get the axe. Hard comment - but SOMEONE HAS TO TELL LIKE IT REALLY IS.

speedster16
speedster16

I REALLY wish them the best .BUT WINNING IS ALL THAT MATTERS IN  MLB.

speedster16
speedster16

They didn't trade ,Heyward,J Upton -THOSE GUYS GOT TIRED OF PLAYING IN REDNECK CITY AND ASKED TO BE TRADED.

speedster16
speedster16

They'd BETTER  win more games this season than last season.

Jerry916
Jerry916

The Braves will be paying Dan Uggla more to not play for them than they will everyone else on the roster except maybe BJ.  

You can not make those type of blunders if you're going to have a payroll of a small market team.

Jerry916
Jerry916

Have you payed attention to the type of players the Braves are signing?  They are hoping to catch lightening in a bottle.  Every one that they've signed would have to have career years for the team to be competitive.  


They signed relief pitchers that are coming off of injury, or have stunk it up the last 1+ years.


They signed a backup catcher that is old, and unproductive.


If BJ does what he's done the past 2 seasons, who on this roster is going to protect Freddy?  It's going to be a lot tougher this year for Freddy to produce, than it was last.


This roster does not look very good, and I expect them to lose a lot of games.  They may as well trade Kimbrel, because he's going to have very few games to save.


BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

Well great.  Maybe the danged Parking Lot (sounds like a player from Asia) can bat cleanup and play center field better than stinking BJ.  The Nats signed Uggla to a minor league contract.  Maybe some his jinx will rub off on them.

chrisbeyer
chrisbeyer

Two....not one (which would be excusable) September Swoons should have gotten Freddi the boot.  

candlin14
candlin14

Is it me, or did we not have GREAT pitching last year??? Is it me, or did we score roughly 2 or 3 runs a game. Is it me or did we get blanked more then any team in the majors last year??


The ONE MAJOR PROBLEM this team had was FREDDI GONZALEZ!!! We ended up bringing him back and stripping our nucleus. WHAT A JOKE ATLANTA!!!! 


I SAY THIS ALL THE TIME!!!! "WHY ARE WE THE MOST MISERABLE SPORTS TOWN IN AMERICA"?????

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Could be grim here for a year or 2. Wren dug us a very deep hole here.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

It looks as though Hart is envisioning a pitching staff of Teheran,Wood,Miller,Sims and Fried(and or Jason Hursh) in 2017............could be pretty good then.................too bad the Padres wouldn't take BJ too!

Hesalive
Hesalive

It's all about pitching, folks. If the Braves can pitch they'll be competitive next year. 

gthacker
gthacker

I was wondering if Mr Shultz watched the same performance I watched the last few weeks of the season.  Something was wrong and it wasn't pretty.  I see 20 games a year and would rather drive the 75 miles to watch effort and promise than  continue all the strikeouts, whining at the umpires and swinging for 5 run homers.    I don't think i would spend the time or money very often if that continued.  I appreciate the changes.

RoswellDickie
RoswellDickie

Gotta remember that the Indians, the Ceveland Indians, cut John Hart loose. The Indians.

BobDawg
BobDawg

Yeah, Hart is not done :  Gattis is going to the American League to DH for Prospects and maybe a frontline player. He has huge value and not an everyday player in the N.L. Hart freed up $15 Mill in the Upton deal and can be a buyer now to shore up positions…. I think the Braves are going to change on the fly like the Hawks have done the last few years and change their mode of play from Bombers to better hitters; speed and Defense. 

TomGaff
TomGaff

@BobDawg I hope you are wrong? Besides Freeman and  Kimbrel, Gattis is the only fan favorite left? I personally would like to see him get 500 AB's, and see what he can do w/o being  wore down with the rigors of C every day? He should be fresher and stronger? If he can catch fly outs directly at him, I for one, would be content, everything else is a bonus. Not much difference with Justin in LF last season? If BJ Upton is not on his game, he could easily get run-over on a fly ball in gap between the two of them? Is that a bad thing? Let's see how Gattis handles it in LF, he costs so little($600K) and is tied up with us for 4 more seasons.

JSSN
JSSN

It is starting to smell and feel a lot like 1975 more than 1995 around the Smyrna Braves

reckingball
reckingball

I don't care if they terminate Fredi's employment with the Braves or not. But, he wasn't the biggest problem last year, or even a minor problem, it was the offense, as in the hitting. Particularly, the hitting with RISP.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Yeah, I don't think Hart is done yet. I do sense an inclination to players with more Moneyball potential (emphasis on potential at this point). In the end, what everyone is waiting for is action on BJ. I still believe no one else wants him, and he'll come to Spring Training. If he wakes up and performs, fine, seize the opportunity and trade him. If not, the Braves are either going to have to cut him outright or lose a significant portion of their paying customers.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@DawgDadII Unfortunately, the only thing I hear about BJ is that unless some one like Gattis is in deal, BJ is going no where? Even with that, it is a long shot?

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Easy to over look who we did get (back): Roy Clark.               


Won't make an immediate impact but should make a long lasting impression (again).

DickSterr
DickSterr

From the looks of things payroll will be cut while other teams payroll are going up


Go Hawks and GA State basketball the only decent team in town


Rome and Gwinnett is where the real baseball excitement will be as long as we have Hart/Coppy/Mc Guirk and Liberty Media around


And Cobb CO taxpayers are going to have to subsidize this -- not good

DickSterr
DickSterr

John Hart is the second worst thing we have had in Braves history -- second only to the corporate ownership we have had the last dozen of so yrs


And it looks like Liberty will never ever sell out so we are screwed

candlin14
candlin14

Not sure why we r rebuilding when the biggest problem with the team was this worthless Manager we had. Misery in Atlanta continues. The Falcons season ends tomorrow. The Dawgs flat out suck and the only positive this year is the Hawks.

DickSterr
DickSterr

@candlin14 


Correct -- the Hawks are winning in spite of ownership but part of that group will go away

TomGaff
TomGaff

Just a thought guys, Justin to San Diego right? Ok, send BJ with him, they probably want even notice he's there. If they try to send BJ back to Atl, just say MY BADD and take him back!! Seriously, lighten up, last season we were TERRIBLE, pitchers could not win unless they threw a shutout and then it might end in a 0 to 0 tie! Any changes probably will be an improvement. For gods sake, leave Gattis alone. Besides Freeman, he is about the only player the fans like!

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

Dump Freddie too. He couldn't manage a team that could of won, how will manage a rebuild?

SOB
SOB

@youlibtards He'll be surrounded by people just like him. Losers.

mthomas
mthomas

Not only won't the Braves be the "27 Yankees, they won't even be the '67 Yankees.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are both Tommy John victims.  Theyve done alright, as have many others.  So...that's no concern.  The fact is this, Sir Schultzie,  Frankie Wren decimated the farm, and John Hart has to rebuild it, and quickly.  The strength of the original 'Braves Way' as built first by GM Bobby Cox and then continued by GM Schuerholz was the farm.  It took Wren and his arrogance (hard to believe he's more arrogant than Schuerholz) a few years to tear down the farm, but by underpaying/undervaluing the scouts and relying on his own flawed evaluation skills he was able to do so.  Hart has to rebuild, and quickly before the new stadium, hence trading the only pieces this awful team has, while hopefully holding on to the young pitching staff. 

Give Hart a chance, he's done okay in the past. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@devounknown1000 @patriotdog  Money is a poor excuse unless it is your money. You should have put up the financing to resign Heyward and Justin, after they inevitably went FA and the price went sky-high.

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

@patriotdog  Braves should have kept every body together for next 4years, Braves where very young and talented, Heyward, Justin, Freeman could have been the corner stone for braves maybe deliver a championship, but dismantle such a young talent team because of Money is a poor excuse.


Hart could have kept them together and also build threw draft for next several years.


GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

Actually I like what the Braves are doing. Sports writers lamenting the loss of a 100+ RBI player is BS. That player was part of an underachieving team anemic in scoring. To me, he played like an individual not like a team player. At times he looked like he didn't care one way or the other. He could be another BJ with the Padres. His defense sucked, his body language sucked, and he has the potential to be a mirror image of his brother.


I'd rather see a fired up hustling and aggressive team on the field than a drag your bat back to the dugout strikeout king that might hit an occasional home run.....when you don't really need it.


The Braves have pitching....Noted. The Braves have a question mark offense....right now. The big plus for the Braves....they have a GM and an assistant GM that will add the last needed pieces to be competitive.


Don't get taken in by sportswriters "hype"......wait for the results.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Totally agree - both guys were going to walk in a year. Wren botched the team's roster and budget. Hart is trying to fix it.

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@TreeRollins And JS was hiding out in his office and allowed Wren free hand to carry out this master plan without interference.

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

@TideDawg I'm not sold on the "great" outfield San Diego has assembled. They will be booing JUp quickly if he plays defense like he did in Atlanta. Kemp is a shell of his former self with an aging body and Myers hit .222 last season. 


I like what the Braves are doing - building pitching. After this season, they'll have Uggla's money off the books and they can add some offense through free agency.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@DisgustedFan @TideDawg  Better to watch no talent players hustling than what we had to watch last year.


I trust that Hart knows more about these players than I do.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@hardworkinman @TideDawg  I don't really care about the Padres outfield. They did the Braves a favor by taking J Up. Anything the Braves got in the deal was a bargain.

scottarino
scottarino

@Maggot_Man @TreeRollins exactly, no one should forget JS hired that goon Wren so this is every bit his fault as it is Wren's. But I quit putting JS up on a pedestal when Ted Turner's money left town and JS's magic touch left with it. 

DickSterr
DickSterr

@TideDawg 


They can hustle and try all they want but players who are not talented will not score you runs


The John Hart version of the Braves suffers from an incurable malady -- its called no talent


These 2 Peterson guys suck and this 20 yr old kid who had TJ did not have that great a record before he went down.  Had a 5.06 ERA


The only one who might have upside is Smith and he is a ways away and he might be another Gorkys Hernandez or maybe Micheal Bourn do not know


Terrible trade gives us nothing for now

ATLfaninVA
ATLfaninVA

Funny to me with all the negativity. I find it humorous that everyone crying about not getting enough in return. You people act like you have no knowledge of baseball. Trades are not based solely on talent alone. Everyone knows that JUp will be testing FA next year. How many teams will give up their top prospect(s) for a possible one year rental?  Try….NONE. John Hart is much better at this than ALL OF US combined…calm down. Not like 99% of you on here ever attend a game anyway. 

doktrt
doktrt

@ATLfaninVA I've been through all the Braves cycles here. I bet you've never been to a game where you could hold a conversation with someone 20 rows away. Or have the concession guy sitting at the end of your row awaiting a call from any of the sparse crowd. Almost like  room service. Well get ready because we are about to enter that cycle again. We'll go through a series of managers. I doubt Fredi survive till the all star break. The Chuck Tanners, Dave Bristols,Ed Hauss, etc need to start applying now. This team will continue the spiral until Liberty Media sells the franchise.

SOB
SOB

@ATLfaninVA And never will again if current trends continue.

MarkAnderson
MarkAnderson

You could see this Justin Upton trade coming but not questionable return. I still wonder if they could have kept Jason Heyward for the $11m/yr they are paying the much older Nick Markakis. I feel sorry for guys left in the lineup. Freeman will not see much to swing at when they pitch around him next year.

Mora-less-Petrino
Mora-less-Petrino

Looks like the Braves are stockpiling pitchers with experience; Tommy John surgery experience!

NorwegianBlue
NorwegianBlue

I'm all for a rebuilding effort, and nobody's untouchable, but I'm struggling to see the return value on these deals. Seems more like a roster dump and Fredi is getting set up to take the fall when the 2015 club loses 100 games. I have no qualms about firing Fredi, but this seems like a low-class way to go about it. I miss Ted Turner.

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

All this tear down because we signed a player that 80% of us fans didnt want in the first place!!   I know i wasnt the only one wanting to keep Michael Born instead of signing overhyped BJ!