The Atlanta Braves weren’t going to wait around and see what kind of a price tag Scott Boras placed on the services on free agent center fielder Michael Bourn. Braves GM Frank Wren zeroed in on the Tampa Bay Rays right-handed slugger B.J. Upton, and pending a physical, it looks like the deal may get done.
With Michael Bourn expected to command a contract totaling more than $100 million, it’s not surprising that the Braves decided to look elsewhere once talks with Bourn’s agent Boras had stalled. Although Atlanta will have some money to spend this off-season, it was a good move on the part of the Braves front office to let other free-spenders bid on Bourn.
On the flip side, the contract with Upton is a huge move away from what the normally frugal Braves are known for. The deal, once finalized, will be the biggest free-agent financial outlay the history of the club. Upton and the Braves have reportedly agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million deal that is expected to be announced once Upton completes his physical exam this week.
Besides replacing the likely departing Bourn in center field, Upton also provides some needed balance in the batting order for the Braves, bringing a right-handed thumper to offset lefties Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. Over the past two seasons Upton has totaled 51 homers and 159 RBI.
Michael Bourn brought the Braves speed on the basepath, but Upton provides the rare combination of both power and speed, as he was one of only three players in the majors last season with at least 25 homers and 30 steals, along with the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun. Pretty good company.
Upton is also just the eighth player in major-league history to reach 100 homers and 200 steals before turning 28, joining Rickey Henderson, Cesar Cedeno, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Eric Davis, Lloyd Moseby and Hanley Ramirez.
But one of Upton’s drawbacks is his propensity for striking out–ranking among the top six in the majors in strikeouts for six consecutive seasons–something that Braves hitting coach Greg Walker will no doubt have to focus on with the 28 year old center fielder.
Upton has also proven in his time in Tampa that he is an invaluable asset going down the stretch run, something that Michael Bourn failed at miserably in his two summers in Atlanta.
In the end, it would appear that the Braves are going to get much more bang for the buck with Upton than they would have with Bourn.