With money to spend and holes to fill, Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t waste any time finding a replacement for free agent center fielder Michael Bourn, locking up B.J. Upton to a five year, $75 million deal that puts another 20/20 threat in the lineup next to Jason Heyward. That still left a hole at either third base or left field, and all Wren did was go out an acquire the best player available on the trade market, Arizona’s Justin Upton, for a package of Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado and prospects Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury.
The acquisition of the younger Upton gives Atlanta one of the most dynamic outfields in baseball, and the team can enjoy the Upton-Upton-Heyward alignment for at least the next three years.
Wren also shipped right-hander Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels in return for fire baller Jordan Walden, a move that gives an already deep Atlanta pen yet another setup option going forward. Pitchers Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson had their 2013 options picked up, as did Brian McCann. All in all, it was a very successful offseason for a franchise coming off a 94-win regular season. The Braves again have a roster that will allow them to be in the thick of things in the NL East.
MIDDLE INFIELD – At shortstop, the Braves get to enjoy a full season of defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons, who saved 19 runs defensively in just 426 innings, according to Fielding Bible. Simmons provided more with the bat than was expected, producing a 102 wRC+ and a career high .127 ISO last year. With how good his defense is all he needs to do is hit for some average to be a very good player. He’ll be a favorite to win the Gold Glove at shortstop in 2013.
At second, Dan Uggla returns for his third season in Atlanta, and the Braves hope that his power outage in 2012 (only 19 home runs and a career low .164 ISO) was an aberration. Uggla is still a below average defender at the keystone, so he’ll again have to provide most of his value with the bat. It will be interesting to see whether his large uptick in walks last season carries over to this one.
Buy the 2013 Season Preview to read the rest of the Braves team preview and top 10 prospect report.