The Atlanta Braves are coming off a season in which they were one of the better teams in baseball. Coming into 2013, however, they had a few holes they needed to fill. One of their holes was due to the retirement of Chipper Jones, who better be a first-ballot hall of famer in a few years. The other hole was in centerfield, until the Bravos signed BJ Upton to a 5-year, $75 million contract this evening.
If you want my initial reaction to the deal, just watch this:
BJ Upton is going to make $15 million a year for five seasons? Seriously? It seems like we have been waiting for Upton to break out ever since he dominated in the 2008 Playoffs.
Now that I got my rudeness out of the way, let me look at this objectively. First off, the Braves were in need of a centerfielder, considering Scott Boras represents Michael Bourn, who probably will receive $100 million now. Upton is a fine replacement for Bourn, seeing he has been a 3.5 fWAR outfielder for the past three seasons. Secondly, we know Upton has the talent, it’s just a matter of putting it all together for a full season, which he has only done once in 2007. Lastly, he’s only 28 years old, so he could find it within a blink of an eye.
Now, let’s look at the bad stuff. To say Upton doesn’t give 100% every game would be quite the understatement. I fear that we could have a little big of an Albert Haynesworth situation on our hands, meaning an athlete will quit after he gets his guaranteed payday. I don’t think Upton is that much of a joke, so I will discredit that notion. Secondly, Upton had a .298 on-base percentage last season. Sure, the 28 bombs were great, but get on base sometimes, man. It’s concerning that his walk percentage went down three whole points from his career mark. Hopefully for the Braves, that number is just an outlier and he will live up to his $75 million contract.
One may wonder what this means for the Braves and Upton’s former team. Honestly, not a whole lot in my opinion. The Tampa Bay Rays are still one of the better teams in the American League, while the Braves maybe lost a couple of wins from the Bourn/Upton transition.
Did the Braves overpay? Absolutely. But I thought the same thing when Torii Hunter signed a $5-year, $85 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Hunter earned his contract with the Halos, so Upton might earn it with the Braves as well.
If this contract tells us anything, it’s that Josh Hamilton is going to be a very, very rich man.