Nationals Baseball: BJ Upton deal

Thursday, November 29, 2012

BJ Upton deal

The Braves are about to sign BJ Upton.  While some may balk at the expected contract (5/75), it's pretty much as fair as the LaRoche 3/30.  Maybe not the best deal but it's hard to see the Braves not recouping at least 75-80% of that value over the life of the contract. Should the Nats worry about this turn of events?  Not yet.

Upton for Bourn is an interesting swap.  Offensively Upton is the better player.  He hits for so much more power than the punchless Bourn (who's only going to get more punchless) that it overcomes his low average and OBP.  Over the past three years Upton's OBP and SLG of .317 and .436 respectively make him an above average offensive player.  Bourn's .346 and .376 make him maaaaybe average.  On the basepaths they both steal at a success rate around 80%, though Bourn takes off a little more giving him a bit more value.  In the field though Bourn has a huge advantage.  He is one of the best centerfielders in the league.  Upton can merely hold down the position.

On the surface it looks like the Braves are getting worse. Bourn is that much better a fielder, that Upton would have to be an all-star caliber hitter to make up the difference.  Why then do the Braves make this deal?  Two reasons.

Reason #1 : They need offense.

The Braves ranked 11th in BA, 7th in OBP, and 10th in SLG.  They are losing Chipper Jones who hit .287 / .377 / .455 last year.  Some help will come from McCann being healthy. Some more from fielding a shortstop who doesn't use the latin translation of "good field, no hit" on his family crest. But they need more. Upton makes them better offensively.

Reason #2 : Age.

5 years of Bourn : age 30-34
5 years of Upton : age 28-32

The trade off is Upton's age 28 and 29 years now for Bourns 33 and 34 later.  On Upton's side, I think we are done with the "maybe he'll put it all together" segment of his life. It's been 5 years. He is who he is. That being said career years have to happen sometime. Maybe (probably) it was at 22 for him, or maybe he has one left in him. At 28-29 I can see it. Even if not, you don't expect a crash at these ages so Upton should be a reliable source of offense for the next few years, something you can't say about Bourn.

At 30 he's likely on the downside of his career. If he suffers any bit of drop off in his average he's pretty much done as a useful offensive player. That drop off will happen, it's a question of 'when', not 'if'. Will it be at 30? 33? 35? He's still a good enough defensive player that it may only matter significantly for his overall value if that drop off happens very soon, which you'd put at a pretty low risk. But for a team that needs offense, the Braves can't take that risk. (the Nats could)

The Braves didn't as much ensure that that they'd be better next year, as they ensured that overall they wouldn't be worse next year for losing Bourn. At the same time they secured a better 5 year future than if they had re-signed Bourn, who's more likely to drop into "not a good player" by 2017 than Upton is. It was a good deal, a necessary one, and one that keeps the Braves on the Nats heels for the forseeable future.

Now do the Nats try to separate or not? Do the Braves try to catch up? We'll know pretty soon. Hot Stove Action!

17 comments:

Positively Half St. said...

I didn't want BJ Upton, so this is a real plus in my book. He definitely earns a place on my tongue-in-cheek "Players I Wish Ill" list for 2013.

+1/2St.

Morocco Nat said...

Give me Grienke!!!!

Harper said...

1/2 ST > 0 - I kind of like Upton, but the more I looked at it the less I thought he could bring to the Nats. His fielding had become average. His hitting was good but he was now years removed from being special. His speed is good but even for those that want him as a leadoff man he had atrocious OBP skills. Was not the right fit here. (now watch him blow up and hit 40 in the ATL summer)

Morocco - I'll check my bank account and get back to you.

Pumpkin Escobar said...

Any thoughts on a trade for Justin Upton? I think I read somewhere that the Dbacks were fielding offers. I didn't think BJ was THAT good of a fit with us and I'm not completely sold on Bourne. The only upside I see is that the holes in LF will be plugged with a solid CF'er

blovy8 said...

Meh, either way, this is a flawed guy to be spending 15 million on for five years. I'm glad Harper is already better. It's the same problem as giving LaRoche an extra year, except this guy probably gets two too many. You probably get one 4-5 WAR year, but I bet you get another around 1 to even it out since you've signed him for so long and he's bound to have an unlucky BABIP year or something. It's tough to see him producing the 15 WAR to make the deal fair. Maybe there is 20 percent inflation going on, and it only needs to be 12. That makes sense, but boy does that make team-controlled players worth a ton.

Upton got his homers by swinging more and missing just as much. He's not adding power to an acceptable OBP to indicate an improved approach, so it's a wash.

To me, Bourn is a good fit for San Francisco. Lots of big outfields in the division, his lack of power matters less in his home park, and they like old guys.

Pig.Pen said...

Please, no Bourn, please no Bourn. Bourn is a mediocre player who's only going to get worse. Not only would the Nats be wasting money, but they would be wasting a spot in the lineup and eventually wasting outs. I would rather see if Bernadina can replicate what he did last year in a reserve role over the course of a season than sign Bourn (or Upton for that matter if he was still available).

Donald said...

The thing of it is that we don't really have a CF need. Harper is fine there next year and we have decent prospects coming along in the not to distant future. Plus, getting a new CF means shifting either Werth or Harper to LF which isn't ideal. And it also means losing Morse (or LaRoche) so we would be taking a step back offensively.

The need that Rizzo sees, at least as far as I can tell, is for a prototypical lead-off hitter. But that person should be a significant upgrade in OBP and speed to Werth, I'd think or why bother. I'd be surprised if the Nats made a play for Bourne.

If they resign LaRoche, then the only real hole is for the #5 pitching spot. If they don't resign LaRoche, then it's maybe for a lefty power hitter who plays LF (plus the #5 pitcher).

In any case, they probably won't do anything significant in terms of position players until LaRoche is figured out, right? It's hard to imagine them upgrading an OF of Morse, Harper, Werth next year with any of the CF's available.

Donald said...

So I guess I was wrong. The Nats just picked up Denard Span. Whoda thunk.

BlueLoneWolf said...

Well, we just 'solved' a couple things. Nationals just traded Alex Meyer for Denard Span. Which, in a way, might be fair for both teams, though I hate giving up young arms. So we now have a full time CF and a true leadoff hitter. Looks like they're lining up everything for LaRoche to leave, or trading Morse. Now that Harper's bumped? Morse is out in the wind unless LaRoche doesn't sign. Huh. Again, your move, Rizzo...

Donald said...

Have to say that an OF of Harper, Span and Werth seems pretty strong on paper.

DezoPenguin said...

Defensively an improvement (three guys with CF range, plus, well, getting Morse the heck out of the OF has got to help). So now we can sign LaRoche and trade Morse, or let LaRoche go and move Morse to 1B. I think I'd rather bring back LaRoche for the glove, especially if Morse can help bring us a pitching upgrade (or, really, even a pitching "hold serve"...getting a full year of Stras plus more stamina for Znn is by themselves an upgrade, so as long as Rizzo doesn't get cute and put someone measurably worse than Lannan as the #5...).

Ultimately, I'm happy with this. Span has good speed and OBP skills and good fielding. If he can stay healthy (and no reason to think he can't, since he didn't have a recurrence of his 2011 problems). Werth can move to the #2 spot, perhaps, setting the table for Zim, Bryce, Morse/LaRoche, and Ian...

DCNatty said...

The more I read about this trade the more I like it. Span seems to be younger and better then Bourne and costs a fraction of the price.

My dream next move....trade Morse for a starting pitcher (or any pitching) and resign Laroche. Is it Spring yet?....

2013 WS CHAMPS! lets do it!

Froggy said...

I don't see Span being the huge improvement over Bernadina. That is, if Berni's past year was not a fluke. I guess if nothing else, it makes for a competitive spring training in CF.

DCNatty said...

Im pretty sure they didnt trade their top pitching prosepct to have Span compete in spring trianing. CF is his. Wha tthey can do is package the Shark and Morse and go get a pitcher. I like Berni but i do think he played a bit above the norm last year. Span should also hit more HRs then playing in the massive death valley park in Minn. Hell easily hit 10-15. .285 with 10HRs as a leadoff. Ill take it

DCNatty said...

Harper...wake up and smell the coffee. Everyone is waiting for your take on the trade.

Another great part of the trade...Morse isnt in LF watching flyballs go over his head. Although, that may mean hes at 1B watching groundballs go between his legs.

Donald said...

At this point, it looks like 1B will either be LaRoche or Morse. All of the other positions seem set. The bench would be Tracy, Moore, Lombardozzi and Bernadina.

Now we just have to figure out the #5 starter and 2-3 more spots in the bullpen, depending on whether or not Gorzellany is back.

Question -- if Garcia doesn't make the rotation as a starter, do they abandon that experiment and put him in the pen, or keep him as a AAA starter?

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