By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA — The Braves made B.J. Upton their primary offseason target, and they can now look forward to seeing him in their lineup for at least the next five years.
Upton and the Braves agreed to a five-year contract, officially announced after a physical on Thursday morning in Atlanta. A source said the deal was worth $75.25 million.
Upton chose the Braves after drawing interest from the Phillies and to a lesser extent, the Nationals. The 28-year-old outfielder had been with the Rays since being taken with the second selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.
Along with enhancing the Braves’ lineup with his coveted combination of speed and power, Upton will bring his highly regarded defensive skills to an outfield that already possesses Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward.
As things currently stand, Upton will replace Michael Bourn in center field, as the Braves continue to search for a left fielder via a trade or the free-agent market.
When the Braves began looking toward the future, they quickly determined Upton was the most attractive outfielder on the free-agent market. They did not have the financial resources available to compete for Josh Hamilton, and they were hesitant about bringing Bourn back with a five-year deal.
With much of Bourn’s value coming via his speed, the Braves were worried about the production he might provide near the end of a five-year deal. The speedy outfielder, who was acquired by the Braves at the 2011 Trade Deadline, will turn 30 in December.
Along with being two years younger than Bourn, the 28-year-old Upton has shown the ability to provide both power and speed. This combination and his age seemingly made it easier for Atlanta to project what he might provide over the life of the contract.
When the free-agent process began, Upton thought there was a good chance that he would end up with the Phillies. But the Braves put themselves in position to get a deal done when they made a solid impression on the veteran outfielder during his Nov. 15 visit to Turner Field.
General manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both were impressed with the maturity and knowledge Upton showed during that meeting. Upton’s visit to Atlanta was enhanced when former manager Bobby Cox stopped by the clubhouse and spent some time talking baseball with the five-tool outfielder.
Upton batted .246 with a career-high 28 homers and a .752 OPS in 146 games with Tampa Bay in 2012. He also recorded a career-high 169 strikeouts and posted an alarming .298 on-base percentage.
Over the past three seasons, Upton has combined to hit .242 with a .317 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging percentage.
These are not the numbers that were necessarily envisioned when Upton was drafted with great expectations 10 years ago. But the athletic outfielder has continued to impress scouts with his skills and ability to come through in the clutch. Upton hit eight home runs while helping the Rays reach the 2008 World Series.
Upton has increased his home run total each of the past five years and has recorded at least 31 stolen bases each of the past five seasons. He finished two home runs shy of joining the 30-30 club in 2012.
SectionsAtlanta Braves, Featured Story, MLB, Sports
Topics2002 First-Year Player Draft, Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, Braves, Clarksville, Clarksville Sports Network, Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, MLB, Nationals, Phillies, Rays, Tennessee