“The last few days have been kind of crazy,” said Upton. “It hasn’t really sunk in completely, and it won’t until you step on the field in spring training.”
Upton was living amidst speculation that he could be traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks for months. Numerous teams inquired, and an early January deal to the Seattle Mariners was ultimately vetoed by the young outfielder. For the native of Chesapeake, Virginia, this trade to Atlanta represented the perfect opportunity to begin the next chapter of his career.
Having the chance to play with his brother and be closer to his entire family is a dream scenario. One that the Upton brothers could not have foreseen would play out so favorably, or so soon.
“I didn’t think it would happen this year,” said the younger Upton. “You don’t get that lucky. But for us both to have that chance now, for that to actually happen, and for us to be on the same team, [it’s] tough to really put into words how it feels. We’re excited about it and looking forward to it.”
Their dream of playing together became a reality when the Braves and Diamondbacks agreed to a seven-player trade on January 24. Upton and Chris Johnson came to Atlanta in exchange for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and three prospects.
Even before signing the elder brother, B.J., to a five-year free agent contract in late November, Braves general manager Frank Wren was intrigued to discover that Justin might be available.
“I don’t think it was realistic for us until probably 10 days ago,” remarked Wren on of the trade talks. “We inquired going back even before we had signed B.J., when we started hearing some rumblings around the general managers meetings that Justin would be a guy they would talk about. So we inquired at that time and kind of got pushed back with some of the names.”
Initially, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was shopping for a young, major league ready shortstop and Wren was not interested in trading away Andrelton Simmons. Once Arizona pulled off a three-team deal that landed Didi Gregorius in part from the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona’s desire for Simmons was no longer a stumbling block.
“I think after that we started to settle in on some names and started building the deal as it turned out,” said Wren in regards to renewing negotiations following the nixed deal between Arizona and Seattle.
Bringing the Upton brothers to Atlanta generates an exciting dynamic for the team as it moves on from the Chipper Jones era. Specifically, combining the Uptons with Jason Heyward creates one of the finest outfields in baseball, a fact that is not lost on Justin.
“Everybody out there can move, [and] can cover some ground,” he said. “I think it’s special to have that kind of athleticism in the outfield.”
With the Uptons and Heyward all young and under team control for a minimum of three seasons, Braves fans can expect many special things to come.