Assuming Justin Upton has indeed been traded to the Padres for what’s being reported as a passel of prospects, what we’d figured was happening has actually happened: The Atlanta Braves have gone whole-hog into younger-and-cheaper rebuilding mode.
That’s not the worst thing they could do. The worst is to do as the Phillies have done — let a good team get old and expensive and awful — but rebuilding is never without risk. What if you can’t find players as good as the ones you just traded? (Say what you will about the inconsistencies of Jason Heyward and J. Upton, but they’re big-time talents. And also good guys. But yes, they were headed for free agency.) What if the new model never equals the old model?
Understand: This is not a rip of the Braves. I understand what they’re doing, and maybe it needed doing. I say “maybe” because, at last check, they’ve had one losing season since 2008. But it’s clear the new-but-also-old Braves hated everything Frank Wren had done with this organization, and they’re determined to build something that they regard as better and, to use a sabermetric word, sustainable.
I don’t know if they’ll succeed. Nobody knows if they’ll succeed. But this is what they’re doing, and when you do something like this — trade the corner outfielders off a team that couldn’t hit in the first place — you’re not thinking of winning next season. It will be a while before the Braves are winners again.
Addendum: Some of you have asked, “So how are you rebuilding when you sign Nick Markakis, a 31-year-old outfielder, for $45 million over four years?” I’m afraid I have no answer. That particular move stumped this band, too.
Another: The Braves finished next-to-last in the majors in runs last season. The Padres finished last. The Padres have added Matt Kemp, Will Myers and J. Upton. The Braves have subtracted J. Heyward and J. Upton.