Justin Upton

How about an Upton-Upton-Heyward outfield in Atlanta?

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We know the Braves are in hot pursuit of free agent B.J. Upton, who could well be the next top free agent to sign. It makes one wonder if they’d considering pairing the Upton brothers and bringing in Justin from Arizona.

On the surface, it seems like a great idea. Neither Upton brother has quite fulfilled his potential, but the two happen to be pretty competitive with one another; putting them in the same lineup would be quite the motivational tactic.

And the Braves have the artillery to get a deal done. The Rangers tried earlier this month to trade for Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons, strictly for the purposes of using him in an Upton deal.  The slick-fielding Simmons, who should begin contending for Gold Gloves as soon as 2013, hit .289/.335/.416 in 166 at-bats as a 22-year-old rookie last season. The Diamondbacks might initially ask for a pitching prospect along with Simmons, but I think they’d make the trade straight up if it was offered.

That would leave the Braves with a lineup of:

3B Martin Prado
CF B.J. Upton
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann/Gerald Laird
SS Paul Janish/Tyler Pastornicky

Not bad, right? It currently looks like McCann will miss the first month or two after shoulder surgery, but even minus his bat, that’s still a really nice lineup.

Of course, acquiring such an outfield would have huge payroll implications. B.J. Upton figures to command about $15 million per year as a free agent. Justin will make $9.75 million next year, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015 under the terms of his deal. Even if B.J.’s deal would be backloaded a bit, it’d probably mean taking on $22 million for 2013 and $28 million for 2014. Plus, the player getting subtracted, Simmons, will make the minimum for the next three years.

So, no, the whole scenario isn’t at all likely to materialize. However, the Braves do have the ability to make it happen if they want to. If money is tight, they could easily lop an additional $6.5 million off the payroll by trading Paul Maholm (they’d still have a rotation of Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, with Brandon Beachy hopefully returning at midseason). If only Liberty Media weren’t so stingy with the payroll, these are the kinds of splashes the Braves could be making every offseason.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.