San Francisco Giants: Trade Partners with Braves?


The Atlanta Braves made it known fairly early in the offseason that slugging outfielder Justin Upton was available for trade. But earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, the Braves’ brass stated that third baseman Chris Johnson would also be on the market, as a package with his teammate Upton, as reported by Bob Nightengale on twitter.

Ignore the typo. It’s Chris Johnson that the Braves are offering, as Kelly Johnson seems to be exclusive property of the American League East. But how does this concern the San Francisco Giants?

Well, let’s break down the Giants’ roster for a second. The most glaring holes are in the rotation, at third base, and in left field. Forget about starting pitching for a second, so Giants’ fans can recover from the stress that Jon Lester put us through (The guy obviously knows torture.) Anyway, that leaves third base and left field.

Wait a second…Johnson and Upton play those positions! All of our problems are solved!

Well, no, not quite. It’s not as simple as that. These are two high-caliber players, and it will take some fancy finagling to get a deal done. Atlanta is basically in a rebuilding phase, as they’ve already traded away Jason Heyward and top prospect Tommy La Stella this offseason. That means the Braves will be looking to acquire a good bunch of prospects, and the Giants aren’t exactly stacked on the farm.

There’s Clayton Blackburn and Kyle Crick. There’s Mac Williamson and Daniel Carbonell. There’s Keury Mella, Joan Gregorio, Derek Law, and so on, and so on, and so on. The point is, while the Giants have a lot of solid mid-level propsects, they don’t own the flashy guy that makes other teams jump for joy at the thought of acquiring him.

But let’s look at how these possible acquisitions fit in with the Giants. First, there’s Upton. If the Giants are looking for a power-hitter, look no further than the younger Upton brother. The Giants and their fans should know him well, as he spent six seasons with the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Upton spent the last two seasons in Atlanta, where he has stayed healthy, and flourished in the middle of their lineup. Over those two years, he’s hit 56 total home runs, pacing the Braves’ team. He also finished third in the National League in 2014 with 102 RBI’s, his first career triple-digit RBI season. With a career .354 on-base percentage, Upton has been known for consistently finding ways to make it to first base. The Giants have had their struggles in that area as well.

Upton’s contract only runs for one more season. So any trade for him will be for a short-term rental, unless he performs so well the Giants decide to give him the big money contract he’s sure to demand. If not, Upton’s one season allows more time for the development of Williamson and Carbonell, one of whom could take over in left field in the near future.

The other half of this deal isn’t so bad either. Johnson is a career .283 hitter, and his approach at the plate would fit in well at AT&T Park. He’s a great gap-to-gap hitter who uses all parts of the field, he works counts, and he won’t try to hit home runs. He also plays solid defense, but he’s not exactly a gold glover.

Johnson may be best known for his 2013 season, in which he finished runner-up for the National League batting title with a .321 clip. He also tallied 34 doubles, 12 home runs and 68 RBI’s in his breakout season. He regressed in 2014, as his average dropped all the way down to .263, with 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 58 RBI’s. He also struck out a career-high 159 times.

Johnson’s contract will have him under team control until at least 2017, with a $10 million club option for 2018. The option can be bought out for $1 million. The third baseman is scheduled to make $6 million in 2015, $7.5 million in 2016, and $9 million in 2017. Despite what could be seen as high salaries, Johnson would still be a cheaper option than what Chase Headley is reportedly being offered.

If the Giants do bite on this potential deal, it will be a big risk. Giants’ fans still cringe at the thought of 2011’s Carlos Beltran-for-Zack Wheeler trade with the New York Mets. Beltran spent three unsuccessful, injury-riddled months in a Giants’ uniform, while Wheeler has become a young stud for the Mets. But Brian Sabean knows what he’s doing. Besides that Beltran deal, he hasn’t done much wrong over the past decade.

This might be a good deal. But if the Braves start offering B.J. Upton, the Giants should run far, far away.