Looking beyond the B.J. Upton deal
Now that the Braves have landed B.J. Upton, they will move toward completion of the roster reconstruction process with the focus on landing an outfielder who can fill the leadoff spot of their lineup.
After undergoing a physical this morning in Atlanta, Upton will travel to Turner Field for a 2 p.m. ET press conference that will officially announce him as the newest member of the Braves organization.
With his five-year, $75.25 million contract, Upton will also be the highest-paid player in Braves history. The talented centerfielder’s average annual salary of $15.05 million trumps the $15 million salary that Derek Lowe garnered while pitching in Atlanta from 2009-11.
Upton provides the Braves the middle-of-the-lineup right-handed presence that they wanted to add to a lineup that already includes left-handed power threats Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.
Like Heyward, Upton has the ability to produce a 30/30 season (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases). To put that in perspective, there have been just three 30/30 seasons in the history of the Atlanta Braves. Ron Gant accounted for two of those occasions in 1990 and ’91. Dale Murphy accounted for the other when he notched his second straight National League MVP Award in 1983.
While the Braves know Upton and Heyward will sit in the middle of their lineup, it remains unknown who they will acquire to serve as their leadoff hitter. In attempt to fill this need, they will continue to evaluate the possibility of acquiring either Denard Span from the Twins or Dexter Fowler from the Rockies.
With some uncertainty within the ranks of the Rockies’ front office, Span is seemingly the more likely candidate. So far the Braves have not made much progress with the Twins, who would likely seek either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado in return.
But with the Winter Meetings preparing to start on Monday, the trade market could certainly begin heating up. This could help the Braves gauge what kind of market there is for Tommy Hanson, who won 13 games this past season and was heralded as the game’s top pitching prospect just three years ago.
By trading Hanson, the Braves could free up approximately $4 million and increase their options in their search to find another outfielder. This could open the door to negotiate with free-agent Shane Victorino, who could play left field and hit leadoff. Victorino will likely get a three-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $27 million.
Another interesting potential trade for the Braves could involve Justin Upton, who will be at Turner Field today for his older brother’s press conference. If the D-backs end up deciding they are going to trade the younger Upton, the Braves could certainly show some interest. But to be in position to complete this deal, they would likely have to trade Hanson or free up a portion of their payroll in another manner.
The last order of business leading up to the Winter Meetings will occur on Friday when Jair Jurrjens and Peter Moylan will both likely be non-tendered. Barring an unforeseen trade completed in the next 24 hours, Jurrjens will definitely be non-tendered.
There is a little less certainty about Moylan. But in all likelihood, Moylan will be non-tendered and put in a position where he would have to accept a Minor League deal to return to the Braves next year.