Nationals

Arizona sends Upton to Braves in 7-player deal

201301241152427550186-p2.jpeg

Arizona sends Upton to Braves in 7-player deal

PHOENIX (AP) Justin Upton is having a family reunion in Atlanta.

Arizona traded its star right fielder to the Braves on Thursday in a seven-player deal that sent former All-Star infielder Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks.

For the first time since he was a high school freshman, Upton will have older brother B.J. Upton as a teammate.

The brothers combine with Jason Heyward, who won a Gold Glove in 2012, in an outfield potentially packed with power and speed.

``If we push ourselves to the next level, I feel with the extra push from each other there's no question we can be the best outfield in baseball,'' Justin Upton said in a telephone interview. ``I'm not going to give us that label until we prove it.''

The Braves, who also get third baseman Chris Johnson, are giving up one of their top pitching prospects, Randall Delgado, and three minor leaguers in the deal.

They are right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury.

Prado, projected to play third base for the Diamondbacks, can become a free agent after this season, but Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said he already was working with Prado's agent on a long-term deal.

B.J. Upton, 28, signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta in November.

Justin Upton, who has five full seasons in the majors but is just 25, said he already got tips from his brother from afar. Now there will be more chances for the two to help each other.

``I think from that standpoint it will be good, but I think more than anything being able to show up at the ballpark genuinely excited every day and have that energy,'' he said. ``The more energy you can bring from the start every day, it makes you a better player.''

Braves general manager Frank Wren said he expects the brothers will push each other.

``I do think it will drive them,'' Wren said. ``We've been looking for that young dynamic, right-handed, power-hitting outfielder that can hit in the middle of the lineup and makes that other team think a little bit.''

The younger Upton, who has three years and $38.5 million left on his contract, had been the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason and vetoed a trade to the Seattle Mariners.

Upton had his ups and downs in Arizona, and Towers believes the change of scenery will benefit the young player, who was just 19 when he came to the majors.

``The expectations were through the roof on him,'' Towers said. ``When the team struggled, it seemed like it was always because of Justin. That's hard. We're human beings. It's hard to take when you're a young individual trying to establish yourself.''

Now, Towers said, Upton has ``an opportunity to go to a different place to where he's going to fit in with some star players over there, where he's just kind of a piece of the puzzle versus kind of the centerpiece and the big piece of the puzzle.

``I think some pressure will be off of him.''

Arizona manager Kurt Gibson, his left arm in a sling after shoulder surgery, said he sent Upton a long text wishing him the best.

``I said, `You must be ecstatic to be able to play with your brother.' I could certainly understand that. It's got to be a great thrill for him.''

Gibson said Upton reminded him of himself as a player.

``I had some things that happened with my manager Sparky Anderson over the years where maybe we butted heads a little bit and I didn't agree with him,'' Gibson said, ``but when it was all said and done it all made sense and it was for me to become a better person and a better ballplayer. I would say similar things have happened with me and Justin throughout our association. I know he respects me and I respect him.''

Prado, who joins fellow Venezuelan Miguel Montero in Arizona, made the All-Star team in 2010 as a second baseman and played mostly in left field last season. Prado was projected to move to third base for the Braves this season to replace the retired Chipper Jones.

Arizona had accumulated a glut of outfielders, signing Cody Ross as a free agent last month. Upton, an All-Star pick in 2009 and 2011, was the most marketable.

Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, has played five full major league seasons. Last season, he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs and a career-high 107 runs.

In 2011, while helping Arizona win the NL West, Upton hit .289 with career-best totals of 31 home runs and 88 RBIs and finished fourth in NL MVP voting. Overall, he's a career .278 hitter with 108 home runs, 739 hits, 147 doubles and 80 stolen bases.

Upton said he hopes to become a more consistent player in Atlanta.

``I've had a couple good years where I put up good numbers and my goal all along has been to put those years up consistently,'' he said. ``I think now I'm in a position with Atlanta ... we can really feed off each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to that consistent production rate.''

Delgado, a 23-year-old right-hander, had been expected to challenge for a spot in the Braves rotation. His acquisition bolsters the young pitching depth in Arizona depleted by the trade of Trevor Bauer. Delgado was 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 appearances, 17 as a starter, for the Braves. Rated Atlanta's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America the past two years, he was 4-3 with a 4.06 ERA with Triple-A Gwinnett last season.

The trade leaves Arizona with three veteran outfielders - Ross, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra - along with two youngsters the team feels are ready for the majors - Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. Towers projects Eaton as a center fielder and a prototypical leadoff hitter.

Towers said the addition of Ross and a top contact hitter in Prado changes the character of the club.

``I would say we're going to be a little different club,'' he said. ``I think we can still hit home runs, but I think the last couple of years we've relied too much on the long ball. If you look at our record, those days that we didn't homer, we usually didn't win.''

---

AP sports writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

---

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

Quick Links

Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Back before all this mania, Miami, as putrid as its season would be, loomed as a factor.

Handling the Marlins would be key for any contender. It wasn’t a question of winning, but of how much winning would occur against one of the league’s worst teams.

Following Friday’s 6-4 win in a sparsely attended Marlins Park, the Nationals moved to 14-3 against Miami this season. They are 16 games over. 500 for the year. They are plus-11 against Miami alone.

Asdrúbal Cabrera homered again, Trea Turner hit two homers, and Daniel Hudson pitched two innings to earn the save. So, the Nationals, 84-68, hold a one-game lead for the top wild-card spot. Milwaukee won again, joining a long list of teams to beat up on the Pittsburgh Pirates since the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule began. Pittsburgh may be the league’s worst team, at the moment, and the Brewers host it for two more this weekend.

Trouble is brewing for Chicago. It lost again to St. Louis -- this time a 2-1 mid-day defeat in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost four in a row. They are three games behind the Nationals and two behind the Brewers. Their path to 90 wins, which may ultimately be the threshold for postseason entrance, is narrowing.

The Mets won their third consecutive game. They are hanging around, 3 ½ games behind the Brewers with nine remaining on the schedule. Their wild-card elimination number is six.

News for Philadelphia is more dire. The Phillies dropped to 78-74 Friday night following a 5-2 loss in Cleveland. They are now five behind Milwaukee. Their wild-card elimination number is a mere five. 

Which brings us to the more detailed math portion of this program. Here are the postseason chances for each team, according to fivethirtyeight.com:

Nationals, 96 percent

Brewers, 84 percent

Cubs, 15 percent

Mets, 5 percent

Phillies, less than one percent

Coming up Saturday:

St. Louis at Chicago, 2:20 p.m., Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA) vs. Quintana (13-8, 4.37)

New York at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m., Wheeler (11-7, 4.09) vs. DeSclafani (9-9, 3.93)

Washington at Miami, 6:10 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. Yamamoto (4-5, 4.87)

Philadelphia at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m., Vargas (6-8, 4.48) vs. Plesac (8-6, 3.64)

Pittsburgh at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m., Marvel (0-2, 9.00) vs. Davies (10-7, 3.70)

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Beyond the Scoreboard: NLL changes and social responsibility

usatsi_12490990.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the Scoreboard: NLL changes and social responsibility

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST

  1. SportsBusiness Journal lauds corporate social responsibility. Amidst a recent roundup of sports CSR initiatives, SportsBusiness Journal noted that the first project on which educational platform developer EverFi collaborated with a sports property was “a financial literacy program that regional bank BBVA offered for use by elementary school students in a handful of NBA markets, including Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix.” When Houston hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2013, league sponsor BBVA arranged for Rockets star James Harden to appear at a participating school. “While it’s cool to have a BBVA banker come into the classroom, it’s even cooler if James Harden shows up,” said Jon Chapman, co-founder and president of global partnerships for EverFi, which has developed online educational modules on topics ranging from financial literacy to STEM to anti-bullying, branded for presentation by teams, leagues, and sponsors. After Houston, EverFi developed educational modules for the NHL and NHLPA around science, technology, engineering and math; for the NFL and the United Way around character development and African American history; for MLB focusing on learning loss during summer vacation; and with MLS around anti-bullying. We look forward to celebrating a Sport Business Handbook event with EverFi at their Washington, DC headquarters on October 2
  2. The National Lacrosse League announces details for the 2019-2020 season, which include divisional realignment, playoff format and schedule type after the addition of two expansion teams and new market Halifax. The league will feature 13 teams in the upcoming season after fielding 11 last year. To accommodate the addition of expansion teams, the New York Riptide, Rochester Knighthawks, and new market Halifax Thunderbirds, as well as maintaining an eye towards continued expansion, the NLL will shift to a three-division format in 2019-2020. “The league has had unprecedented expansion over the last three years. With two more teams coming in this year along with a new market in Halifax, we felt the need to reexamine conference alignments, schedule and playoff formats to prepare for future expansion. We also wanted to create exciting rivalries for the fans, the best travel scenarios for teams and players and competitive match-ups for our 13 franchises,“ said NLL Commissioner and Sport Business Handbook contributor Nick Sakiewicz. Along with unprecedented expansion, the NLL is clearly looking at unprecedented success.
  3. Cal Ripken, Jr.’s celebrity golf tournament draws in legendary athletes across major U.S. sports leagues. According to the Patriot News, the event, featuring such legends as Julius Erving, Lawrence Taylor, Ozzie Smith, and Jim McMahon, was held to benefit the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The inaugural golf outing was held in 2011, and since then, the event has raised several million dollars for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The principal goals of the foundation are to utilize baseball- and softball-themed programs in an effort to build character and teach life lessons to underprivileged children. Founded in 2001, the Foundation has served kids in all 50 states and in other countries such as Canada and Nicaragua. With over 20 Hall of Famers across the NFL and MLB, the event has an impressive amount of star power to help draw attention to giving back to those less privileged through baseball and softball.