BJ Upton Lands in Atlanta
The first major signing of the off-season has happened and it is BJ Upton going to the Atlanta Braves. Upton was never a good fit for the Nationals. As a batter he had too many of the same qualities as Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. The Nats have enough low OBP/high SLG bats to go around and if they fail to sign an outfielder they will have another in Tyler Moore in left field, and it is likely that Moore could be as good as Upton offensively. There is also the fact that while Upton is a good defender, Bryce Harper was a great defender in 2012.
The Nats outfield defense needs help, and while BJ Upton would have offered an upgrade the redundancy of his bat and his blocking of Brian Goodwin made him the worst fit of the free agent outfielders. Where it does effect the Nationals is what it means for the Braves. In 2012 Michael Bourn had his best season by fWAR amassing a total of 6.4 while Upton had a sub par season with 3.3 fWAR. Over the course of their careers both Upton and Bourn are around 4.0 WAR players.
The reality of this move is that the Braves lost a lead-off hitter, downgraded slightly on defense, and gained more power at the bottom of their order, and all of that equals out to roughly no drop off. The addition of Upton mitigates the loss of Bourn and will allow the improvement of the Braves to come from having Simmons and Medlen for an entire season and the continued growth of Hayward and Freeman as all-star level players.
The other major loss for the Braves is the retirement of Chipper Jones. Jones was a 3.0 fWAR player in 2012, but his age showed on defense as he was worth -0.4 UZR. For his career Prado is a 4.1 UZR/150 player at 3B and Juan Franciscon 4.8. With Prado being one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball and Francisco being slightly better than him at 3B the Braves might be best to leave Prado in left and use Francisco everyday at third.
Francisco is not the hitter that Chipper was and that bat will be missed from the Braves line-up. Francisco has a career batting line of .258/.303/.440 meaning he should bat somewhere near the bottom of the order with the hopes that someone is on base when he does connect and launches the baseball.
Position player wise the improvement of the Braves will come from Simmons. Assuming a 4.0 fWAR season from Upton and a 1.0 fWAR season from Francisco the Braves are looking to make up four wins. If Simmons can play in 150 games the way he played in 49 last season he is a 6.7 fWAR player. Which is great and could put him in some MVP discussions. Some might view this as unlikely, but Simmons may already be the best defensive short stop in the majors and if his power was not a fluke he will be one of the best short stops in baseball in short order.
The move for Upton is the Braves basically treading water, but when you are a 94 win team treading water is a good thing. The Braves didn't get any closer to the Nationals with this move, but unless the Nationals can replace the 3.8 fWAR of LaRoche then the combination of the Nats falling back and the Braves holding steady has the NL East looked even closer than last season, and that is before counting in how much a full season of Medlen would mean to the Braves. As of right now the Nationals may not be favorites for the NL East and it could very well be that there is a 100 win Wild Card team out of the division in 2013.