We all know the story by now:
Talented player (Justin Upton) is petulant and underachieving with his team. Talented player upsets old-school manager (Kirk Gibson), who no longer wants to play talented player. Mid-level Team (Arizona Diamondbacks) decides best decision is to trade talented player.
Team desperate for hitting (Seattle Mariners) tries to trade for talented player. After many months of dealing, team desperate for hitting agrees to give up a whole lot (Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, et al) for Talented, but petulant and underachieving player. However, he exercises his limited no-trade clause in contract because Team Desperate for Hitting is one of four teams on that list. All involved knew this was a familiar possibility.
And the story finally has an ending:
Mid-level team’s beleaguered general manager (Kevin Towers) of Talented, but now-untradeable player – knowing old-school, hard-nosed manager wants nothing to do with talented player, who is entrenched in his doghouse – is forced to settle for a trade to get Talented player out of the organization before spring training becomes a circus. And there was Playoff contending team waiting to reap the benefits by offering 50 cents on the dollar.
Will all the teams live happily ever after?
Ok, enough story time.
On Thursday, Towers, who had lost whatever leverage he had in the trade market, traded Upton to the Atlanta Braves for five players – 3B/LF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado and minor leaguers – SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Zeke Spruill and 3B Brandon Drury.
From Atlanta Journal Constitution … he’s the story. Columnist Mark Bradley writes about how the trade improves the team.
Obviously, the new deal is to discuss who got the better end of the trade the moment it happens. And based on talent and scouting reports, this trade pales in comparison to what the D’Backs would have gotten if Upton wouldn’t have blocked the trade.
But that’s what is important to remember …. trades aren’t operating in a vacuum. There outside factors that manipulate and affect trades. It’s never based solely on talent.
Towers was in an unwinnable situation with Upton. Late in the offseason and with Upton having nixed the Mariners deal, he had no leverage. The Rangers apparently weren’t as interested as some think. Now some could say that he put himself in that position.
But dig a little deeper, blame could fall on Gibson. The gruff, old-school manager clashed with Upton at various times last season and even benched Upton for a few games for his lack of effort on the field and lack of production. If Gibson had gone to Towers and said, “Hey, let’s make this work. This guy is too talented. I’m willing to at least move forward with him to start the season with a fresh slate. If it doesn’t work out, we can deal him midseason.” If that happens, then Towers can go to spring training with Upton on the roster. He has some leverage. He might get requisite talent for Upton from a playoff contender at midseason. But that conversation didn’t happen. Or at least we have no reports of it happening.
But in the end, this falls on Upton. He was the one who got himself benched. Yes, he is immensely talented and yes he was battling an injury. It’s one thing to not produce, but it’s another thing to not produce and have your effort questioned. And that’s what put him in Gibson’s doghouse. In the end, is it that much to ask to have consistent effort?
So yes, Kevin Towers didn’t get as much as he would have from Seattle. And he didn’t get a great haul from the Braves in terms of prospect ratings. The Braves get a player with star level talent, who should be re-energized by playing with his brother. In the end, the real winner is Upton in all of this. And somehow that seems flawed.