Some will raise their eyebrows. After all, the Braves just gave $75.25 million to a center fielder who has hit under .250 four years running.
And it’s not a move without risk. Still, Atlanta’s signing of B.J. Upton to a five-year deal should prove fine in time. He’ll strike out a lot and frustrate fans while slumping, but he’ll hit for power, run down a bunch of balls in center and steal some bases.
Let’s face it, $15 million doesn’t buy what it used to. In this market, it’d barely buy Jeremy Guthrie and Jonny Gomes. Getting a potential star at that price seems like a much better idea than loading up with mediocrities.
Upton is just 28 and he’s had a couple of years of terrific play (.300/.386/.508 in 2007 and .272/.383/.401 in 2008), followed by four years in which he hit .240 and relied on more on his glove and legs to provide his value. Because Upton is durable and possesses those skills that aren’t so prone to variation, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything less than an $8 million-$10 million per year player at any point during the deal. If he breaks out in the easier league in the NL and a friendlier offensive ballpark in Turner Field, then he could be a $20 million-$25 million guy a couple of those years.
Still, the real bummer here is that the huge outlay doesn’t actually make the Braves any better right away; Michael Bourn was better last year than Upton is likely to be next year. Bourn, though, is two years older than Upton, he has all kinds of red flags as far as his offensive staying power and he’s seeking even more money than Upton was. The Braves definitely set themselves up better for the future by signing Upton than they would have by keeping Bourn. However, if they want to give their lineup a real boost, they’ll need to bring in a quality left fielder to play alongside Upton and Jason Heyward.