B.J. Upton agrees to terms with Atlanta Braves

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 1:59 PM
Last updated 8:30 PM
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Atlanta general manager Frank Wren (left) said B.J. Upton will provide some more right-handed power in the Braves lineup. Upton hit 28 home runs last season.  JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta general manager Frank Wren (left) said B.J. Upton will provide some more right-handed power in the Braves lineup. Upton hit 28 home runs last season.

ATLANTA — Jason Heyward was in the audience as B.J. Upton was introduced Thursday as Atlanta’s new center fielder.

That made manager Fredi Gonzalez smile as he realized he didn’t have to worry so much about finding the third starter in his outfield.

“Shoot, we may not even need a left fielder,” Gonzalez said. “With him playing center and Jason, who just won a Gold Glove, in right, it’s going to be fun watching these guys cover some ground in the outfield.”

Upton, 28, was given a No. 2 Braves jersey after finalizing a $75.25 million, five-year contract – the biggest ever given a free agent by the franchise.

He spent his first eight big league seasons with Tampa Bay. He hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBI and 31 steals this year and replaces Michael Bourn in center. He is not expected to fill Bourn’s role as a leadoff hitter.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said adding a right-handed hitter gives more balance to a lineup that includes left-handed hitters Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Heyward. Wren said the right-handed power from a center fielder made Upton especially attractive.

“It’s one thing to have a leadoff hitter, which has been great for us, having that true leadoff hitter,” Wren said, referring to Bourn. “We feel like we can find that or create that. But to get someone who can play center field at (Upton’s) caliber and can also hit 20 to 30 home runs, that’s a different dimension. We felt like that would really add to our offense and make our offense deeper.

“We were so left-handed dominant over the last number of years,” Wren added. “Now to be able to better balance our lineup left and right, that was something we felt could really enhance our team.”

Martin Prado is expected to move from left field to replace the retired Chipper Jones at third base. Wren said he believes third base is Prado’s best position, but said his versatility gives the team options during talks at next week’s winter meetings.

“It narrows our focus a little more, whether it’s leadoff or left field or that combination,” Wren said. “Martin Prado can continue to play left field … and he can go to third base, so we have some flexibility with the way our roster is constructed.”

Wren said Prado and shortstop Andrelton Simmons could be the leadoff hitter.

Upton, also courted by Philadelphia, said he was won over when he visited the Braves on Nov. 15. Gonzalez, Wren and former manager Bobby Cox were part of the welcoming committee.

“I came in on that trip and really never felt like that before,” Upton said. “They really made me feel like I was part of the Braves family. … Bobby was great. It feels like I’ve known him for years. These guys, they got me. There’s no other way to put it. They had me when I came here and I left and I felt really good about it.”

Upton’s home run totals have increased in each of the past three seasons, but has hit below .250 with more than 150 strikeouts in four consecutive years.

Upton said his goal is to hit “better than I’ve been the last three or four years.”

“I expect a lot out of myself,” he said. “I felt, yeah they were OK years, decent years, but I think I can be a lot better. Hopefully I can get the batting average up and cut down on the strikeouts and other than that continue to do what I’m doing.”

Bourn hit .274 with 42 stolen bases this year but he had 155 strikeouts, almost as high as Upton’s 169. The Braves believe Upton’s big advantage in power over Bourn, who hit only nine homers, more than makes up for the additional strikeouts.

Wren said losing a first-round draft pick to Tampa Bay was not a factor because the team will gain a similar selection when Bourn signs elsewhere.

“The first-round pick we’ll pick up for Bourn will be somewhere in the 26-to-30 range and we lost like the 26th pick,” Wren said. “So it’s negligible, probably within five picks of each other. It won’t really be a difference at all. That’s the projection we have now.”

Heyward, who had 27 homers and 21 stolen bases this season, said adding a similar power-speed player in Upton is “awesome” for the team.

“He’s able to do some things you have to worry about on the offensive and defensive side of the ball,” Heyward said.

Upton won’t be the only star in the Braves’ lineup, but he’ll be in the spotlight, thanks to the big contract.

“I hope there’s no added pressure, but I’ve dealt with things like that in the past,” he said. “I know what’s expected of me. I won’t put any added pressure on myself. I’ll just go out and do what I can to help this team win.”

Upton’s parents and agent, Larry Reynolds, attended the news conference. Upton said his brother, Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, wanted to join the family but couldn’t make travel arrangements.

B.J. Upton said playing with his brother “has been a big, big topic of conversation” for the two.

“Obviously he’s under contract for three years,” Upton said. “Is it a possibility? Yes. Is it going to happen? We don’t know.”

BY THE NUMBERS

A look at B.J. Upton’s career numbers with the Tampa Bay Rays.

YEAR G AB R H HR RBI BB K SB AVG

2004 45 159 19 41 4 12 15 46 4 .258

2006 50 175 20 43 1 10 13 40 11 .246

2007 129 474 86 142 24 82 65 154 22 .300

2008 145 531 85 145 9 67 97 134 44 .273

2009 144 560 79 135 11 55 57 152 42 .241

2010 154 536 89 127 18 62 67 164 42 .237

2011 153 560 82 136 23 81 71 161 36 .243

2012 146 573 79 141 28 78 45 169 31 .246

Totals 966 3568 539 910 118 447 430 1020 232 .255

Source: sports.yahoo.com/mlb

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F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/29/12 - 03:40 pm
2
1
Wow...
Unpublished

That much for a .250 hitter? You gotta be kidding me!!

Upton’s deal is the biggest free-agent contract of the offseason so far and the largest in Braves history.

Didn't Chipper Jones sign a $90 million deal in 2000?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 11/29/12 - 05:23 pm
1
0
The .25 makes it bigger than

The .25 makes it bigger than Chippers. His was 90 million for 6 years (15 mil / yr). Upton is making 15 mil plus a fifth of the 250k or 50k. Upton is 2 years younger than Chipper was at the time.

50,000 per year younger.

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 11/29/12 - 06:16 pm
1
0
Over $125,000,000
Unpublished

for 2 of major leagues baseball's strikeout kings. Uggla and Upton the 2 u's who will combine for more than 300 strikeouts next year. Wow.

GiantsAllDay
9378
Points
GiantsAllDay 11/29/12 - 06:34 pm
3
0
LOL

before Braves fans get all excited, do you remember a guy by the name of Dan Uggla? Mark my words, this deal will have the same result. What's wrong with Braves management anyway? Is there a term that means the OPPOSITE of moneyball?

itsanotherday1
41948
Points
itsanotherday1 11/30/12 - 01:32 am
2
0
$15million/ year to hit and

$15million/ year to hit and catch a baseball. A buzillion to star in a movie. We have lost our collective minds to continue supporting this idiocy.
I don't blame them, I would take it too if the public were stupid enough to support it.

These people, who really don't contribute a darned thing to the betterment of mankind, are as much responsible for the income disparity between the rich and poor as anyone else; yet the poor people gleefully root them on while castigating CEO's who make the companies they work for profitable.

KSL
126283
Points
KSL 11/30/12 - 03:38 am
1
1
That's exactly why not one

That's exactly why not one thin dime will I spend to watch professional sports. I don't pay to go to the movies either.

saywhatagain
409
Points
saywhatagain 11/30/12 - 09:40 pm
0
0
Upton?

They signed Kate Upton? Sign me up for season tickets!

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