Looking back: D-backs won the Upton trade with Atlanta
Former general manager Kevin Towers got widely criticized back in January of 2013 when he sent the Diamondbacks’ most popular and arguably their best player, Justin Upton, to the Atlanta Braves in a blockbuster seven-player deal.
The deal looked worse when the key player coming back in the trade, Martin Prado, struggled out of the gate in the desert. Prado never could live up to the expectations of replacing Upton and was shipped to the Yankees in a trade before he could finish his second season with Arizona.
With most trades, it takes time to properly evaluate who won and who lost. Now three-plus years later, we are still evaluating the trade that sent Upton and Chris Johnson to Atlanta for Prado, Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury, but now we actually have a better understanding of the deal.
In many ways the Diamondbacks came out in good shape. Let’s count those ways.
For one, Upton has never lived up to his promise and the high expectations of being the top overall selection in the 2005 draft. In 10 years in the majors Upton, now on his fourth team, has hit .300 just once. He has hit 30 homers just once. He has knocked in 100 runs just once. He is a career .270 hitter who is batting .221 with two home runs and nine RBI in his first year with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s also not forget the Tigers signed him to a ridiculous six-year, $132 million dollar contract a few months ago.
It’s a good thing Arizona didn’t hold onto Upton and pay him. He is just not worth the money.
While Prado is playing well for Miami right now, the D-backs did turn him into power-hitting 1B/OF Pete O’Brien who is just 25-years-old and is hitting .322 with 10 homers and 25 runs batted in for Reno and could be up in the majors at some point this season.
Ahmed is a great defensive shortstop who can’t hit. His glove is spectacular, but if he can’t hit his weight, he might not be able to stay as an everyday player. Delgado is a serviceable middle reliever.
The key player in the deal could be Drury — and trust me, no one who was involved in the deal knew that at the time. But Towers got this one right. He liked Drury as an athlete and he did hit .347 in rookie ball at Danville in 2011. He was coming off a bad year in the South Atlantic League in 2012 where he hit .229 and the Braves may have soured on him some. One of the D-backs’ scouts, Clay Daniel, was a big believer in Drury, loved his work ethic and thought his makeup was off the charts. Drury’s high school coach was Troy Tulowitzki’s high school coach as well.
So instead of analytics, Towers trusted a good scout’s opinion on Drury and that faith is paying off. Drury made the Diamondbacks roster this spring and has forced his way into the everyday lineup hitting .304 with six homers, nine doubles and 12 runs batted in through 31 games and 115 at-bats. He projects to hit 26 home runs this year. He is just 23.
Towers is no longer the GM here but I certainly like the cost savings, control and potential of Drury and O’Brien over the overrated and overpaid Upton.