The Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks are once again discussing outfielder Justin Upton, reports Buster Olney of ESPN. Atlanta has reportedly made an offer that Arizona is reviewing, and the Diamondbacks look to have either Upton or Jason Kubel dealt by Friday.
If the Braves managed to acquire Upton from the Diamondbacks, they'd solidify themselves as one of the top three or four teams in the National League (if they're not already there yet in your mind). An outfield of both Upton brothers and Jason Heyward would have one of the highest ceilings in all of baseball, and would probably provide the second-most production next to the Angels outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, and Josh Hamilton.
While the cost in prospects would likely be high for the Braves (and Fangraphs drew up a potential package on Monday), the Braves have a solid core of players that is ready to contend for a World Championship in the next three years. In fact, 2013 might be the best window for Atlanta due to the impending free agency of both catcher Brian McCann, third baseman/left fielder Martin Prado, and starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm. The Braves wouldn't necessarily need to reload after 2013, and they do only have two guaranteed contracts for 2014 (excluding Justin Upton), but the prize is ripe for the taking right now.
Atlanta doesn't need to trade for Upton. They're probably an 88-90 win team without him, and that may be good enough to get back into the playoffs in 2013. But adding him could make them a 93-95 win team, which puts them in prime position to make some waves in October and take home the ultimate prize. While the Braves and their fans are hesitant to trade prospects after the Mark Teixeira trade of 2007 resulted in Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia becoming regulars in the majors, the efforts of Teixeira weren't to blame for the Braves not making the playoffs in either 2007 or 2008.
Prospects are lottery tickets more than anything else, and hoarding them for what could be, rather than what already is, is a mindset that is becoming more and more common in today's game. The prospects the Braves would deal for Upton likely won't help them win a championship this year, and might not in 2014 either. But Upton? Yeah, he's got a really good chance at helping the Braves take a victory lap around Turner Field at the end of October.