In a continuation of their apparent desire to retool before the opening of their new stadium in 2017, the Braves are reportedly likely to move Justin Upton at some point this offseason. Several teams—most notably the Mariners, Astros, and Rangers—are said to be interested.
Upton is coming off a strong season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 with 29 home runs and 3.9 fWAR. Upton's right-handed power will certainly be appealing to other teams, as he finished with the 15th-highest home run total in baseball, second only to Giancarlo Stanton among right-handed National League hitters. Upton's .211 ISO over the last two years ranks 15th in baseball. Upton is slated to make $14.5 million in 2015, the last year of his current contract.
The Braves are reportedly looking to get more from an Upton trade than they received for Jason Heyward, an interesting note to enthusiasts of WAR and defensive metrics. Despite posting a mere 110 wRC+, Heyward was worth 5.1 fWAR in 2014, largely on the strength of his defense. Upton's had a 133 wRC+, but his fWAR was dragged down by his negative defensive value. Nevertheless, Atlanta's front office feels that the current power-starved offensive environment will net them a better return for a better hitter.
Assuming a trade does indeed happen, the Braves figure to install Evan Gattis as a full time outfielder and have reportedly emerged as a favorite in the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes over the past few days. Shedding Upton's salary could help the Braves with that pursuit and could wind up proving similar short term value when combined with whatever pieces the Braves wind up acquiring.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks shopped Upton prior to the 2013 season, Sandy Alderson reportedly looked into acquiring him, but the situation is vastly different this time around. Even before the signing of Michael Cuddyer, the Mets figured to be a long shot to land Upton, both because of the prospect cost and the challenges of completing a trade with a division rival. With a full outfield for the next two years, Mets fans can almost certainly count on Upton not wearing the blue and orange in 2015.