With the trade of Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres on Friday, the once-mighty Atlanta Braves appear to be officially giving up on contending for a pennant in 2015, while the Padres have immediately established themselves as legitimate threats to the San Francisco — Los Angeles dominance of the National League West.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was first out of the gate Friday, confirming the Justin Upton trade.
According to sources speaking to the Associated Press, Upton — one of baseball’s most significant right handed power hitters — was dealt for a package of prospects that may include 20-year-old lefty mound prospect Max Fried, along with three other prospects: Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, and Mallex Smith.
In 2012, the Padres made Fried the seventh overall pick in the June draft, out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles. Despite injury setbacks, Fried, pictured below, was rated at the Number 2 prospect in the Padres minor league system and 35th in baseball overall.
In other words, the Padres are willing to put their future on hold for a shot at a postseason berth right away. The Upton deal follows trades in which San Diego acquired Los Angeles Dodgers veteran slugger Matt Kemp and. also on Friday, Tampa Bay Rays’ highly regarded outfielder Will Myers.
Also on Friday, the Padres picked up another home run hitter in former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to an AP report. The Padres reportedly sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to Boston in exchange for the promising but injury-plagued Middlebrooks.
The Padres had just acquired Hanigan the same day as part of the Myers trade.
With the sudden explosion of trade activity, the Padres became a sudden run scoring machine — at least potentially — after a season in which they finished dead last in the National League in runs scored, averaging an anemic 3.3 per game.
Justin Upton, unless the Padres can sign him to a contract extension quickly, becomes a free agent after 2015, leaving little doubt that the Padres brand new 36-year-old general manager, A.J. Preller, is in full “go for it” mode in his first season as GM — which is exactly the program that Preller laid out when he was hired in August.
“You want to play on the big stage,” said the 1999 Cornell University grad at the time. “The big stage is not Lake Elsinore, the big stage is not for our prospects to get to El Paso or Petco. The big stage is not to get to the big leagues. The big stage is playing in the World Series, with the whole world watching.”
The Braves, on the other hand, now appear committed to a rebuilding program with young players, as the Justin Upton trade leaves them several years away from a return to the top of the NL East — after the franchise won its division every year (except strike-shortened 1994) from 1991 to 2005.