And on the third offseason that he was made available, Justin Upton was finally dealt.
The D-backs shipped their curiously maligned slugger to the Braves in a seven-player trade reported by various outlets on Thursday morning. The deal, which is not yet official and is likely pending physicals, would send Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson to Atlanta. In turn, third baseman Martin Prado and starting pitcher Randall Delgado fortify a package of three prospects -- pitcher Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury -- that are said to be Arizona-bound.
Spruill (No. 6), Ahmed (10) and Drury (13) all rank among the Braves' top 20 farmhands. Surprisingly, they are the lone prospects in the deal, and none of the three are expected to be stars, no doubt the label afforded to Upton when he became the No. 1 overall Draft pick in 2005 and proceeded to average 21 home runs over his first five full seasons in the Majors.
Upton, a two-time All-Star who is signed through the 2015 season, invoked a clause in his contract to veto a trade to the Mariners two weeks ago that reportedly would have netted three of the M's top six prospects. His name has been bandied about since Nov. 15, 2010, not long after general manager Kevin Towers assumed control in Arizona.
Spruill, a second-round draftee in 2008, fashioned a 3.67 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Mississippi last season. The 23-year-old right-hander, an owner of a strong sinking fastball and passable secondary pitches, would likely begin 2013 at Triple-A Reno. He is not a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Ahmed provides the kind of shortstop depth the D-backs have sought throughout the offseason. The 2011 second-rounder is not as polished as Didi Gregorius, whom Arizona landed in a three-team December trade, or Double-A Mobile's Chris Owings but is a solid player nonetheless. He posted a .269/.337/.391 slash line and stole 40 bases in 130 games at Class A Advanced Lynchburg last year. Like Spruill, he went on to success in the Arizona Fall League.
Of the three, Drury is the furthest from the big leagues. The 2010 13th-rounder broke out in '11, batting .347 in 63 games with Appalachian League club Danville. In his first full season as a pro this past year, however, the 20-year-old third baseman batted just .229 in 123 games for Class A Rome. He is seen as a capable defender at the hot corner.
Upton, meanwhile, goes from being the mantle-holder to just one of the guys. He joins a Braves outfield that includes his older brother, B.J., a free-agent signee of Atlanta earlier this winter, and another power hitter in Jason Heyward.
Johnson and Prado are switching places while Delgado, formerly one of the Braves' top prospects, will be hard-pressed to find room in the D-backs' Major League rotation this coming spring. The 22-year-old has 25 Major League games under his belt and, like No. 1 Braves prospect Julio Teheran, who was first reported as a top target in any deal for Upton, has had his ups and downs at Triple-A and in the Majors. Delgado compiled a 4.37 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) and walked 42 batters across 92 2/3 innings in Atlanta last season.