While the inactivity of this season's non-waiver trade deadline disappointed, one rejected trade proposal had the potential to shock the baseball world. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Atlanta Braves rejected a trade offer that would have sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder David Murphy, closer Joe Nathan and starter Matt Garza at the end of July.
Texas was known to be aggressively pursuing offensive help throughout the month of July in an effort to fill the hole left by Nelson Cruz, who was suspended for 50 games due to his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Although the team was unable to add an offensive weapon before July 31st, they ultimately acquired Alex Rios in a waiver-wire deal a couple weeks later. Many were surprised that the Rangers did not make a big splash at the end of July, but today's revelation of talks centered around Upton likely means that the team was holding off on making a move in hopes of landing the star centerfielder.
In 143 games with the NL East-champion Braves on the season, Upton has hit .260 with 26 HR and 67 RBI. The 26-year old was acquired by the Braves last winter along with third baseman Chris Johnson in a deal that sent Martin Prado, Brandon Drury, Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill to the Diamondbacks. He is under team control for two more seasons, and the Braves decided to hold onto him in hopes that he will help his brother, fellow Braves' outfielder B.J. Upton, bounce back from a terrible 2013 season and regain the form that earned him a five-year, $75.25 million deal in late November.
As Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported in advance of the deadline, the Rangers were willing to listen to offers on anyone on their roster in an attempt to add an offensive piece to replace Cruz. That included Garza, who was acquired from the Cubs just a couple weeks prior in exchange for prospects Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez. Garza has struggled in twelve starts with Texas, posting a 4-5 record and 4.56 ERA ERA in 79 innings of work. He will become a free agent after the season, and will likely draw interest from many teams on the open market.
Nathan, 38, has posted a 1.51 ERA and a 10.1 K/9 in 62 appearances on the season, earning 40 saves in the process. The Rangers were willing to trade him in exchange for an offensive piece due to the expected return of injured closer Neftali Feliz, but setbacks in Feliz' recovery process are likely to cause the Rangers to be thankful that the Braves did not accept their proposal. Murphy, 31, has hit .220 with 13 HR and 44 RBI in 138 games on the year, and is a free agent after the season.
While the proposal would have changed the rosters of both contenders dramatically, the refusal did not ruin each squad's chance of making a run at a World Series title. The Braves have clinched the NL East and have the best record in the National League, and the Rangers are only 1.5 games behind the Indians in the race for the last AL Wild Card spot. As this year's playoffs unfold and the history books are written, it will be interesting to see how the "what-ifs" of the rejected blockbuster are discussed in the future.