In the end, there was a certain harmony to the trade last week involving principals Justin Upton and Martin Prado.
Both the Diamondbacks, with a wondering and confused Upton, and the Braves, with a disgruntled Prado, engaged in nearly a perfect swap. Neither team truly wanted their marquee player, and as soon as Prado was dealt to the D-backs, he quickly signed up for four more years.
This could be considered a trade of convenience for it seemed the teams were eager to part with an important player. Upton’s exit from the desert was nearly assured last summer when the 25 year old was called “an enigma” by general manager partner Ken Kendrick.
Prado quickly left the shadow of Stone Mountain after the Braves refused to negotiate a long-term deal.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon,. Prado was asked if he thought the Diamondbacks received less for a highly promoted Upton.
“People have different opinions,” he said. “Upton is a super-star caliber player. Who knows, in a few years, people may think in a different way.”
Just a week after the deal, the Diamondbacks inked Prado to a four year extension for a reported $40 million. For 2013, Prado will earn $7 million and $11 million in each of the next three years. By contrast, he made $4.75 million in 2012.
Prado wanted a long term deal and the Braves were unwilling. As a result, the 29 year-old native of Maracay, Venezuela, became expendable.
In preparation for the season ahead, Prado appeared to fit into Atlanta’s plan to replace the retired Chipper Jones at third base. That quickly unraveled when Prado attempted to tag an extension to talks around salary arbitration.
In 2013, Prado enters his final season at the salary arbitration level and began preparation to be become a free agent after the coming season. The Braves refused to open talks on any long-term deal, and Prado said. “for a couple for months, there was some speculation about a trade.”
As talks broke down, Prado said he understood the business of baseball and indicated coming to the Diamondbacks “caught me by surprise. Now, I can see things clearly.”
With the D-backs locking Prado up in for the nearly the next half-decade, third base appears now as a secure position. What’s not secure is Prado’s slot in the lineup.
Normally productive in the two hole, second baseman Aaron Hill had one of his best seasons hitting second. At this point, manager Kirk Gibson seems to have “a good problem” in how to construct his batting order.
Not only does he have to figure out who will hit second, Upton’s old number three slot in the order is also vacant.
“I’ll have to talk (to Gibson),” Prado said. “I’ve been a number two hole hitter my career and like to put the ball in play. But, I’m open. There are many good players here and we’re all in the same boat.”
Prado is known as a contact hitter and in 2,546 major league times at the plate, he has struck out only 308 times. That averages to nearly one K for every eight plus times at bat, or once every two to three games.
Signed by the Braves as a free agent on February 13, 2001, Prado began hitting nearly at once. In his first season of professional baseball, he hit.299 for the Braves rookie team in 2001. He arrives in the desert with a career .295 batting average and a 2010 All-Star game appearance for the National League to his resume.
Prado’s best season was 2010 when he hit .307, cracked 40 doubles, three triples, 15 home runs and drove in 66 runs.
His production will likely stay important whether hitting anyway from second to eighth in the order.
FALLING FROM GRACE
Former Diamondbacks TV analyst Mark Grace has been sentenced to four months in prison.
The sentence was announced after the 48 year-old Grace pleaded guilty to felony endangerment and a misdemeanor. The plea was entered after Grace was arrested last summer in Scottsdale on a second DUI charge. The arrest was the second for Grace on DUI charges.
Grace begins his term in February 10.
Part of his imprisonment was a work-release condition. The Diamondbacks have agreed to retain his services as an instructor during the up-coming spring training period. After baseball each night, Grace returns to prison to continue serving his sentence.