Bob Nightengale of USA Today has provided details regarding the Atlanta Braves’ attempt to trade B.J. Upton in July, an attempt first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports. Nightengale reports that the Braves were willing to take pitcher Edwin Jackson off the Cubs’ hands in “a straight swap of dead weight contracts.”
In other words: Not exactly a bonanza.
Jackson is owed $22 million over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Upton is owed $46 million over the next three seasons. So: Big savings to the Braves, right? Per Nightengale, the Braves “would have had to throw in a ton of cash.” So: Not such big savings, and not exactly a straight swap after all.
Nightengale reports that “the two sides say they weren’t close to agreeing to a deal.” (This is slightly different from the version Rosenthal reported, which had the Braves offering Upton plus a starting pitcher and then saying no, which never made much sense to me.) And here we have to ask: Is it worth paying any price to get rid of Upton?
In two seasons as a Brave, Upton’s WAR rating — this according to Baseball Reference — is minus-2.8. In two seasons as a Cub, Jackson’s WAR rating is minus-3.2. Jackson is 14-32 with a 5.47 ERA since signing for four seasons at $52 million. He led the National League in losses last year and is leading it again now. In sum, he’s the B.J. Upton of starting pitchers.
I understand why the Braves want to dump Upton. I also understand why the Cubs want to dump Jackson. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to acquire either one, even if it’s just for the proverbial change of scenery. (There’s also this: The Cubs, who’ve been rebuilding for the better part of a century, have just promoted touted outfielders Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur to the majors. Why would they want B.J. taking up space?)
It makes sense for the Braves to keep trying to divest themselves of Upton and his contract, but I continue to believe the only way it will happen is if they go the Dan Uggla route, which means they pay him $46 million to go away. But remember how long it took them to reach that point with Uggla.