Braves finally land Justin Upton; NL East favorites?

[caption id="attachment_388" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Justin Upton will join his brother B.J. with the Atlanta Braves after a trade was finalized Thursday morning. Upton is a career .278 hitter with 108 home runs."][/caption]

After months of trying to work a deal for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, the Atlanta Braves finally struck a deal to land the two-time All-Star Thursday morning, pending physicals.

Upton will join his older brother B.J. who signed a five-year, $75.2 million deal – the most lucrative in franchise history – back in December.

Atlanta had been trying to piece together a package Arizona liked enough to pull the trigger. When GM Frank Wren threw Martin Prado into the deal, the Diamondbacks obliged.

Moving west with Prado are pitcher Randall Delgado, pitching prospect Zeke Spruill and a pair of minor leaguers.

The Braves also received third basemen Chris Johnson in the seven-player deal.

Justin Upton, 25, will shift to left field from his usual right field spot and create one of the best outfields in baseball playing alongside B.J. and Jason Heyward. Atlanta is guaranteed to have all three together for at least three years.

Justin finished fourth in the 2011 Most Valuable Player voting after hitting .273 with a career-best 31 home runs and 88 RBI. He also swatted 39 doubles that year and had an on-base percentage of .369.

Upton is a career .278 hitter with 108 homers, 363 RBI and 80 steals. He’ll be entering his seventh season in the majors when 2013 gets underway.

After B.J. inked his deal two months ago, he said he would love the chance to play with his brother in Atlanta.

The Braves had been courting the younger Upton for about two months after his relationship with Arizona and its management grew progressively worse. Prado was the last piece to the puzzle.

The Braves were reluctant to include the excellent utility man. However, when they failed to agree with him on a long-term deal (Prado was reportedly asking more than $10 million per season), Atlanta decided to part ways.

Prado – a .300 hitter four of the last five years – is now 29 and a contract that big was probably not something Wren was willing to entertain.

The second largest piece in the deal is pitcher Randall Delgado, thought by quite a few to be a promising pitching prospect.

He had his moments in the bigs with Atlanta, but his 5-10 record and 3.95 ERA in 24 career starts didn’t exactly meet expectations.

The best news in this trade is that the Braves were able to keep their young, up-and-coming shortstop Andrelton Simmons along with top-pitching prospect Julio Teheran, who Wren refused to include from the beginning.

The obvious hole left to fill is at third base, where Prado was set to take over for Chipper Jones.

Johnson and Juan Francisco are both options for the hot corner and could very well platoon, at least for the time being.

Johnson hit .281 with 15 home runs and 76 RBI with the Astros and D-backs last year. He is a career .283 hitter against righties, compared to .255 against lefties.

Francisco had his moments in 2012, hitting .234 with nine homers in 192 at bats.

He’s been tearing up the Dominican Winter League with a .307 batting average to go along with a league-leading nine homers and 29 RBI, something that has surely caught the attention of Braves management.

The Braves made the playoffs as a wild card last year, but lost to the Cardinals in the dreaded one-game playoff which began last postseason.

The Washington Nationals won 94 games in 2012 and appear to be just as strong this season.

But with the addition of two Uptons, having Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons a year older and a dynamite rotation and bullpen, the Braves are poised to make a big run in 2013 and for the years to come.

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