When the Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis in November, it signaled that the club might be initiating a rebuild.

However, a lack of activity on the trading front at the winter meetings as well as the signing of free agent Nick Markakis to a four-year deal gave the impression that the organization still might try to compete in 2015.

“I made it real clear from the beginning that we’re not looking to trade anybody. We’ll certainly entertain whatever might come our way. If there is something that comes along with real value for us, we’ll certainly examine it,” said Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart following the winter meetings, via Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Well, Hart clearly likes what came his way Friday morning, as the Braves traded left fielder Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres in return for a prospect package featuring left-handed pitcher Max Fried, infielder Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and center fielder Mallex Smith, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

Granted, the Braves failed to acquire any of San Diego’s top prospects in the deal, but they were able to fill some of the glaring holes in their weak farm system, namely left-handed pitching and infield depth, and did so at the cost of one year of Upton.

Now, with both Heyward and Upton out of the mix, it’s time for the Braves to officially commit to a rebuild.

Headlining Atlanta’s return for Upton is left-hander Fried, whom the Padres selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school.

Fried impressed in his 2013 full-season debut, registering a 3.49 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 118.2 innings over 23 starts at Low-A Fort Wayne. His control was shaky, evidenced by 56 free passes and eight hit batsmen on the year, though that was almost expected as he made the jump from the rookie-level Arizona League to Low-A.

Fried, who turns 21 in January, missed the first three months of the 2014 season due to forearm tightness, but returned in early July to make five starts between the Arizona League and Low-A. Unfortunately, the southpaw’s ulnar collateral ligament gave out and resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery, thus putting his promising career on hold for at least a year.

Prior to the injury, Fried, a 6’4”, 185-pound southpaw with a projectable build and smooth delivery, showcased three potentially above-average to plus-plus offerings: a low-90s fastball, an outstanding curveball with varying speeds and shapes and a hugely underrated changeup that will be a weapon against right-handed batters.

The Braves are also getting a pair of Petersons in the deal, Jace and Dustin, who are not related.

The Padres selected Jace, a former two-sport standout at McNeese State University, with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2011 draft. The 24-year-old left-handed batter received his first taste of the major leagues in 2014 but hit just .113 with 18 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances.

However, Peterson did showcase his defensive versatility during his time in The Show, playing both second and third base after logging 330 games at shortstop in the minor leagues.

Dustin Peterson, the younger brother of Mariners prospect D.J. Peterson, was San Diego’s second-round draft pick (No. 50 overall) in 2013 and is generally viewed as a bat-first third baseman.

In his 2014 full-season debut, Peterson batted .233/.274/.361 with 10 home runs, 31 doubles and 79 RBI in 564 plate appearances for Low-A Fort Wayne. However, the 20-year-old’s 137-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that timeframe indicates his approach and plate discipline will require considerable refinement moving forward, and his 38 errors at the hot corner highlight his room for improvement defensively.

The Braves are also getting center fielder Smith, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 who’s since emerged as one of the better base stealers in the minor leagues.

Smith, 21, will join the Braves after a breakout 2014 campaign between Low-A Fort Wayne and High-A Lake Elsinore in which he batted .310/.403/.432 with 41 extra-base hits over 120 games and led the minor leagues with 88 stolen bases.

But after trading both Heyward and Upton this offseason, it makes sense for the Braves, who clearly have their eye on being competitive in 2017, to further their rebuilding process and deal some of their top remaining assets.

From Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

…it’s clear the new-but-also-old Braves hated everything Frank Wren had done with this organization, and they’re determined to build something that they regard as better and, to use a sabermetric word, sustainable.

I don’t know if they’ll succeed. Nobody knows if they’ll succeed. But this is what they’re doing, and when you do something like this — trade the corner outfielders off a team that couldn’t hit in the first place — you’re not thinking of winning next season. It will be a while before the Braves are winners again.

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating the Braves should consider parting with Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran, each of whom signed long-term extensions within the last two years.

Rather, the club should look to trade Evan Gattis (four remaining years of team control) and Craig Kimbrel (owed $33 million over the next three years, with a 2018 team option) this offseason while there’s still an opportunity to extract maximum value for both players.

Considering Atlanta’s return for both Heyward and Upton, whom were both a year away from free agency, there is a real chance they could pull in an even greater haul with Gattis and Kimbrel—guys who might appeal to contenders and rebuilders alike.

It’s hard to say exactly what the next move will be for the Braves this offseason. However, if the team truly is intent on rebuilding for the 2017 season, it’s a safe bet that more trades are coming.

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