Once the San Diego Padres finalized their deal for Matt Kemp, the dominoes kept falling and big names continued jumping around the majors.
One of those names was Justin Upton, the young Atlanta Braves slugger often linked to the Mariners in trade rumors. Also in the deal, the Padres got RHP Aaron Northcraft. Atlanta received a nice haul in the deal, getting minor-league LHP Max Fried, two infielders in Dustin Peterson and Jace Peterson (no relation), along with outfielder Mallex Smith and international bonus compensation.
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I give you all the pieces in the trade because it makes me all the more thankful the Mariners didn’t engage in a bidding war for the 27-year old, right-handed slugger. Many reports believed the Braves demanded Taijuan Walker in any trade for one year of Justin Upton; with the trade the Padres had to put together, maybe the Mariners were wise to keep their big trade chips.
With Upton, the Padres have significantly bolstered their outfield with Kemp, Upton, and Wil Myers.
This trade should make you stop and appreciate the work GM Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners front office have put in this offseason. They went out and got the right-handed bat they needed in Nelson Cruz. After that, the team has been okay with giving a fair offer and not overpaying based on ‘desperation.’ The Mariners are no longer desperate and starved for talent; the team is deep in young talent sprinkled with crafty veterans like Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Felix Hernandez.
The M’s didn’t sell the farm for a chance to win in 2015 or 2016, like the Padres have done. Instead, the Mariners spent $57 million to fill a big hole, traded away an oft-injured outfielder for pitching depth, and then subsequently traded Matt Brazis (who? exactly) to the Chicago Cubs to get a platoon outfielder who wrecks left-handed pitching.
Oct 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) at bat in game five of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
This team is better than it was in 2014. The young pitchers in the ‘pen and the starting rotation have another year of reps under their belts, another year of exposure to the best hitters in the world. No matter where Nelson Cruz plays– whether outfielder or at DH– he will improve drastically on the offensive numbers produced by the two positions last season.
If anything, this team has added by subtraction, then subsequently added by addition too. There is no doubt in my mind this team could win at least one more than it did in 2015, setting up a potential spot in the postseason.
The Mariners shouldn’t be linked to Justin Upton anytime soon– save for next offseason when he becomes a free agent.
But as of today, the Mariners have an improved team from their 87-win squad in 2014, and all they’ve given up to get it is a few extra millions (which they have), an oft-injured outfielder who was strongly disliked by the front office, and an unknown Double-A relief pitcher (who, fun fact, went to Boston College– where I go to school).
This team could make the playoffs tomorrow. And think, they still have more than enough trade pieces to make the deal at the deadline to send them over the top.