Baseball's Winter Meetings don't begin until Monday but when Frank Wren arrives he will have already made more moves than most of his counterparts. Yes, Frank has had a very busy couple of days and if this week is any indication, the Braves will look very, very different next year. Even more different than I first envisioned.
I think B.J. Upton is a great addition at centerfield. Don't get me wrong, I really, really wanted the Braves to re-sign Michael Bourn. I'm a huge fan of his and I was thrilled when the Braves made the trade for him. I loved the speed that he gave the Braves at the top of the order and the excitement he added on the base paths. It was something that the Braves had been lacking for quite some time. Keeping Michael in Atlanta wasn't going to be easy. He's the top centerfielder on the market and Scott Boras is his agent. Need I say more?
B.J. Upton had previously been on the Braves radar and they made inquiries about him at the 2011 trade deadline. The Rays weren't willing to part with him and the Braves picked up Michael Bourn instead. B.J. was the second overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft by the Devil Rays and he made his big league debut in 2004. He spent 2005 in the minors and came up to the majors for good in 2006. He's a .255 lifetime hitter, batting .246 last year with 31 stolen bases, 28 home runs and a .298 on-base percentage. Bourn's stats from last year? He hit .274, with 57 stolen bases, 9 home runs and a .348 on-base percentage.
With a five-year, $75.25 million deal, B.J. becomes the highest paid free agent acquisition in Braves history. He's the quintessential five-tool player. He possesses speed, perhaps not a much as Bourn but that evens out with the extra power he brings to the plate. B.J. is also a little younger than Michael and, as always, the Braves were hesitant to sign an aging player who's key asset is speed (like Bourn) to long term deal.
B.J. Upton has his critics. Some say he's an underachiever but I disagree. In the past he's been criticized for making bad decisions during games but Rays manager Joe Maddon commented that B.J. has made better decisions on the bases this year and his game has matured. The numbers at the plate are impressive. B.J. hit his 100th career home run this season. With this accomplishment he joined an elite group of players who accrued 100 home runs and 200 stolen bases before turning 28. The others on the list include Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Eric Davis, Hanley Ramirez, Bobby Bonds, Cesar Cedeno and Lloyd Moseby.
One thing is for certain, the Braves didn't hold that line-drive that put Chipper on the D.L. for a month against B.J.!
I'm not a bit surprised that the Braves traded Tommy Hanson. I saw that one coming and believe it or not, I actually called it. I liked Tommy a lot but he was always suffering from injury at the end of the season. He has an awkward delivery that neither he nor the Braves could ever correct. I think that took a toll on him phycially. He's in Anaheim now and the Braves received relief pitcher Jordan Walden in return.
Today, the Braves non-tendered Peter Moylan and Jair Jurrjens, again, not a surprise.
Who's gone from the 2012 team?
Who's new to the 2013 team?
Jordan Schafer (don't get me started on this one...)