The Atlanta Braves filled their vacant center field spot this week with the signing of free-agent B.J. Upton. The former Tampa Bay outfielder spent six eight big-league seasons with the Rays before signing a five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta.
Reggie Von Bartles
Hot Stove: Braves Ink B.J. Upton
Wednesday November 28th, 2012
Upton, 28, is a former first round pick (2008) that hit .246/.298/.454 with a 3.3 fWAR in 146 games last season.
In 966 career games over 8 seasons, Upton is a career .255/.336/.422 hitter with 232 steals and a .758 OPS. Although he's not your prototypical power hitter, he's hit an average of 26 home runs over the past two seasons.
The Virginia native is known for his defensive play in center field as well as speed on the bases. From 2008 to 2012, he's stolen close to 40 bases on average per season. Although his on-base percentage was .298 in 2012, he had a career on-base percentage mark of .342 prior to 2012.
For the Braves, the signing is a good one. As discussed previously in the Melky Cabrera signing article - one can assume that the value of a single win is in the range of $5-to-$5.5 million. If the Braves were simply going off this value - they are paying $15 million per season for approximately a 3 win player. Over the past six seasons, Upton has averaged 3.9 fWAR. While the Braves are obviously not paying for past performance (they are. - sort of) - it's likely safe to say that Upton will produce more than 3 wins per season for a few more seasons.
Even if his power numbers don't reach full potential - you're still paying for above average speed and defensive skills. Obviously the speed and defensive skills will decline with age, but hopefully they start their decline later in the contract. The contract may spark conversation regarding Michael Bourn vs. B.J. Upton - but you also have to take into account the fact that:
- Michael Bourn will be two years older than Upton when the 2013 season starts.
- Michael Bourn is searching for a seven-year deal.
- Michael Bourn is represented by super-agent Scott Boras.
So while $15 million per season may seem crazy at first sight, it's not out-of-this-market crazy when you break down the free-agent market.
I took a stab at what the 2013 Opening Day lineup may look like for the Braves.
Overall, the Braves will have a solid defensive team in the infield and outfield. Jason Heyward and Upton provide the team with speed and arm strength from the center and right field positions. As far as the lineup - it also has a nice blend of power and speed.
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