Matthew Pouliot

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.

The Blue Jays signed Julio Izturis, not Cesar Izturis

blue jays logo
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UPDATE: Turns out the Blue Jays didn’t sign Cesar Izturis after all. Mike Cormack of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays actually signed Julio Izturis, who is Cesar’s 23-year-old brother. He played with the Giants’ low Class A affiliate this past season.

Wednesday, 7:13 PM: After stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Washington, Cesar Izturis is returning to the organization that originally signed him as a 16-year-old in 1996. He inked a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

Izturis will battle to make the team as a utility infielder. He hit .241/.254/.343 in 166 at-bats with the Brewers and Nationals last season (though just four of them were with Washington).

If Cesar can make the team, he’d play with his half-brother, Maicer, for the first time in the majors. Maicer Izturis was signed to a three-year deal earlier this month.

In Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson, the Jays had three top middle infield prospects come up at roughly the same time 11 years ago. The team opted to trade Izturis to the Dodgers for top pitching prospect Luke Prokopec after the 2001 season and go forward with Lopez at short and Hudson at second. Alas, Prokopec got hurt and was a bust. Izturis never did develop into much of a hitter, but he would have given the Jays some stability at short had they kept him. Lopez lasted just one year as the starter before getting traded, and the position has been a revolving door ever since, though Jose Reyes finally figures to change that.

Bowden: Mike Napoli negotiating with Red Sox, meeting with Mariners

Mike Napoli
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I don’t trust Jim Bowden for rumors, but it’s not as though anyone else is making baseball news on Thanksgiving:

Again, Bowden is prone to sounding way too confident about any nugget that comes his way. Still, this hardly sounds outlandish. Napoli is a good fit for the Red Sox, and most thought they’d be in on him. The Mariners are also in the market for bats, and if they added Napoli, it’d give them an interesting three-headed DH-catcher platoon between he, Jesus Montero and John Jaso.  They could even play all three at the same time if first baseman Justin Smoak falls on his face again.

Cubs sign outfielder Brian Bogusevic to minor league contract

Brian Bogusevic
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Brian Bogusevic, who opened last season as the Astros’ primary right fielder, was one of four players to sign minor league deals with the Cubs on Wednesday, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports.

The Cubs also added former Braves catcher J.C. Boscan, veteran utilityman Alberto Gonzalez and failed outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez.

Bogusevic, a 2005 first-round pick as a pitcher who later converted to the outfield, hit .203/.297/.299 with seven homers and 15 steals in 355 at-bats for the Astros last season. It’s kind of interesting to see him land with the Cubs considering that he was 3-for-30 with no extra-base hits in 13 games against the club last season; they’ve mostly caught him at his worst.

Bogusevic is the player in the group with the best chance of making the team, but he’ll still be a long shot. Boscan will be no higher than fourth on the catching depth chart. Gonzalez is going to be insurance in case an infielder gets hurt. Chavez has spent seven years in the minors and still hasn’t mastered Double-A.

Report: Jonny Gomes gets $10 million from Red Sox

Jonny Gomes
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The Cody Ross era in Boston appears over. The Red Sox have agreed to terms with Jonny Gomes on a two-year deal that’s worth $10 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.

The $5 million annual salary is four times more than Gomes has ever earned before. He made $1 million while hitting .262/.377/.491 in his lone season with the A’s.

The Red Sox are paying a steep price for a guy who belongs on the bad side of a platoon. Gomes has  hit .284/.382/.512 against lefties and .223/.307/.425 against righties in his career. That line against righties isn’t so bad, but considering that Gomes is a subpar defender, he’s a poor option as a full-time player.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox now re-signing Ross. The two are essentially the same hitter; Ross has come in at .284/.353/.575 hitter against lefties and .253/.312/.415 against righties in his career. Ross is the clearly superior defender and thus is a better option as a starter against righties. However, he was believed to be asking for something in the neighborhood of $24 million for three years.

Gomes will join Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish and Jerry Sands in the mix for corner outfield at-bats in Boston.  Ideally, Kalish, the biggest talent in the bunch, would step up and claim the right field job, at least against righties.