Tag: B.J. Upton

12 Disappointing MLB Players Who Can Still Be Pennant Race X-Factors

As the pennant races heat up and teams begin to fall by the wayside, big-name players will be relied on to step up in pressure situations. When given the opportunity, certain players will have the chance to redeem themselves.

For an organization to make a run at the World Series, all 40 players on the roster must work as a well-oiled machine. If one part is broken, the whole system can shut down. But, if that part can be fixed, it’s full-steam ahead to the pennant.

These 12 players have hobbled their way through the 2013 season, hampering the potential of their respective teams. Whether via underachievement or injury, these major leaguers with subpar seasons can make a serious difference down the stretch.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Begin Slideshow

B.J. Upton Injury: Updates on Braves Star’s Adductor

The Atlanta Braves could be in for even more bad injury news as star center fielder B.J. Upton was pulled from Friday’s game with a right adductor strain. 

The team reported the news via their Twitter:


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Will B.J. Upton Prove to Be a Massive Overpay by the Atlanta Braves?

When the Atlanta Braves signed center fielder B.J. Upton last winter to a lucrative five-year, $75.25 million contact, they envisioned a young star who would provide solid production in the middle of their batting order for years to come.

They may one day rue that deal.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is now seriously considering asking Upton to work out his hitting woes in the minors.

That’s right—demoting a player making eight figures annually.

Speaking to reporters before Friday’s game against the Washington Nationals, Gonzalez talked about what to do about Upton, who is currently hitting just .145.


It’s a hard decision. It’s a decision that you take very, very seriously. You talk collectively with your coaches about it, and it’s something always falls on my shoulders, right? That’s fine. I’m comfortable with that. But you’ve got to think about 25 (players), six staff members, four clubhouse guys, the front office and the fans.

It seems almost unthinkable that Gonzalez would be forced to make that decision. Upton clubbed 118 home runs with a .255 batting average in eight years with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s always had a propensity to strike out, with a 25.1 percent career strikeout rate, but the Braves obviously knew that when they signed him.

What they didn’t count on was a current strikeout rate of nearly 35 percent and a player who looks completely lost at the plate.

Upton was not in the starting lineup for the second straight day, and he’s been relegated to the bottom of the batting order when he has played in recent weeks.

With Evan Gattis hitting .281 along with 12 home runs and 32 RBI, Gonzalez would be remiss to keep his hot bat out of the lineup. On Friday, he had Jason Heyward in center with Justin Upton in right and Gattis in left.

As long as Upton is struggling, that’s the outfield combination that makes sense for a team trying to stay on top in the NL East.

Upton is a classic example of why long-term deals are so incredibly risky for teams. Even Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, was a major risk. He’s struggling in his own right, albeit not quite like Upton.

There is so much for general managers to consider when putting together deals for free agents. In the Braves’ case, they apparently weren’t willing to keep Michael Bourn, preferring to let him hit free agency and take their chances in the market.

Bourn is working out pretty well for his new team, the Cleveland Indians, and he’s doing it for one year and approximately $24 million less.

Can Upton eventually work things out? Sure, but whether he can play up to the level of his contract is another matter entirely.

For right now, that answer is a resounding no. And the Braves are hoping that it’s just a blip on the radar.

If not, they’ll be counting the dollars spent in their sleep.


Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Justin and B.J. Upton Homer in 9th Inning to Lead Braves Past Cubs

It’s pretty clear that the Chicago Cubs have bullpen issues. For the third-straight outing, closer Carlos Marmol struggled in relief and the Cubbies lost a heartbreaker, 6-5, to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

Despite leading 5-1 heading into the last two innings, the Cubs bullpen imploded to give this one away. The collapse culminated in home runs off the bats of B.J. and Justin Upton in the bottom of the ninth.

Facing Marmol to lead off the inning, B.J. launched a solo shot to tie the game before Justin’s long ball gave the Braves the walk-off victory two batters later. The game-winner was Justin’s second home run of the night and capped a three-hit, three-RBI performance for the younger Upton brother. 

It was the first time this season the brothers have gone deep in the same game, but considering both of their power, it’s likely that this will happen more than a few times as the season progresses.

For the Cubs, Marmol was not the only reliever at fault in this one. Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa was just as bad in his one inning of work out of the bullpen, allowing three runs on four hits in the eighth inning.

Marmol and Fujikawa helped waste a strong outing from starter Carlos Villanueva, who lasted 6.2 innings and allowed only one run in his first start of the season.

Braves’ starter Julio Teheran was spared the loss despite allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings of work.


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Would Teaming Justin Upton with Brother B.J. Lead to Breakout Seasons for Both?

Will Justin Upton be traded or won’t he be traded? That is the question.

Just when it appeared that Upton trade rumors had flatlined, reports that the Arizona Diamondbacks are still interested in dealing away their 25-year-old right fielder again have a pulse, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi.

D-Backs general manager Kevin Towers wanted a young shortstop included in any trade package for Upton. He focused on the Texas Rangers, who seem to have a surplus at the position with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. Yet Rangers GM Jon Daniels doesn’t want to deal either player. The Atlanta Braves weren’t keen on trading Andrelton Simmons either. 

However, once Towers got his man in Didi Gregorius through a three-team deal with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, it looked like the D-Backs were finally done with trying to trade Upton. The team and player could both move on and prepare for the upcoming season.

But then Arizona made one of the most puzzling signings of the offseason, inking outfielder Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million deal. Suddenly, the D-Backs have more outfielders than they can put in the lineup at the same time. Towers now has to make a trade.

The initial thought was that Arizona would try to deal away Jason Kubel in something of a sell-high move. Kubel is coming off a season in which he hit 30 home runs with 90 RBI, but only batted .253 and is a defensive liability. He would be a fine addition to any team looking for left-handed outfield pop.

Besides, the D-Backs were no longer interested in trading Upton, right? 


But according to the Fox Sports report and ESPN’s Buster Olney, Arizona is open to the idea again. Perhaps it’s because Towers has discovered that he can’t get much in return for Kubel, who’s affordable at $7.5 million but may have had a career year last season.

Additionally, MLB teams seem more interested in versatile, athletic outfielders these days and Kubel doesn’t really fulfill those criteria. Ultimately, he might be best utilized as a designated hitter, which severely reduces his market. 

That’s not a problem with Upton, however.

At 25, he’s young enough to still improve significantly and has already shown himself capable of putting up MVP-caliber numbers. He also has a club-friendly contract, due $38.5 million over the next three years. No MLB team could get a player like Upton at those terms on the open market. 

The two teams that could have the best chance of landing Upton, according to Rosenthal and Morosi, are the Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves. Personally, I think the Texas Rangers would have to be in the mix as well, since they haven’t landed an impact hitter to replace Josh Hamilton. 

Seattle has to trade for a power hitter because the past two years have demonstrated pretty clearly that free-agent sluggers aren’t going to sign with the Mariners. Maybe after seeing how Safeco Field’s new outfield distances play, that could change. But Upton has the M’s listed on his no-trade clause and presumably has no interest in playing in the Northwest.

The Braves are a different story, Atlanta isn’t as isolated from the rest of MLB as Seattle is. The team is a playoff contender and made it to the postseason last year as a Wild Card. Perhaps most importantly, B.J. Upton—Justin’s brother—just signed a five-year, $75 million contract to play with the Braves. 

Could the brothers Upton play side-by-side in the Atlanta outfield? As you might expect, it’s a subject the two siblings have discussed in the past.


“It’s been a big conversation of ours,” B.J. Upton said to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “Obviously, he’s got another three years [before he’s a free agent]. Is it a possibility? Yes. Is it going to happen? We don’t know. But it’s definitely something that we are going to talk about.”

Maybe the Uptons are talking about it now, with rumblings that Justin is available on the trade market again.

Regardless of where he goes, Justin is surely weary of the frequent trade rumors. He said as much on Twitter, calling the most recent trade buzz “nonsense.” For whatever reason—whether it’s how he plays, a perceived attitude or the opportunity to get a load of prospects in return—Towers doesn’t seem interested in keeping Upton. 

Playing alongside his brother, along with a change of scenery in Atlanta, could be what Upton needs as well. He suffered a regression in his performance last season, batting .280 with a .785 OPS, 17 home runs and 67 RBI. Those are not MVP numbers. However, a thumb injury surely contributed to the dip in production. 

If playing together is something the Uptons have always talked about, the two would presumably be happy on the same team.

Would that make B.J. get on base more? His on-base percentage was .298 last year. Getting to play with his brother probably couldn’t make that much worse. But Martin Prado hitting in front of him, with Jason Heyward batting behind him will likely help more with that.

If Justin were able to hit between Heyward and Freddie Freeman as the Braves’ cleanup hitter, that could have a positive effect on his game. Yet Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt both had fine seasons for the D-Backs and Upton struggled batting between those two.  

Both Justin and B.J. Upton struggled on defense last season, according to FanGraphs‘ Ultimate Zone Rating. Playing next to each other could help both of them improve, as they’ve shown excellent defensive range in the past. 

But would Justin play right field or left field? He’s never played anywhere but right field before, yet Heyward had an elite year defensively at the position, saving 23 runs more than the average right fielder. Do the Braves really want to mess with that? Or, is Heyward versatile enough that he can be moved to left, giving Atlanta three strong defenders in the outfield? 

Two brothers in the same lineup would certainly be a fun story to follow. It would be like watching Bill and Cal Ripken, Jr. play together with the Baltimore Orioles. OK, maybe it wouldn’t be exactly like that. Actually, it could be much better, considering how young both Upton brothers are and their potential to both hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. 

Does Braves GM Frank Wren have the resources to make a deal like this happen? Can he build a package around Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado? Would he have to include both pitchers? That seems unlikely. But for another powerful right-handed outfield bat, Wren might consider parting with those prospects. 


Follow @iancass on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

B.J. Upton Will Be Harder to Replace Than Carl Crawford for Tampa Bay Rays

B.J. Upton will be the hardest player the Tampa Bay Rays have had to replace.

The Upton era in center field for the Rays is over now that he has been introduced and the ink has dried on his new contract with the Atlanta Braves (per the Washington Post).

Upton is one of the most difficult players the franchise has ever had to replace, especially since they started winning in 2008.  This includes the losses of Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir and other key contributors for the team.

In 2012, Upton had a .246 average with 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31 steals in his final season with the Rays. Replacing that level of performance will be more difficult for the Rays than most other contending teams, even Rays teams of the past.

The difference with Upton’s departure from the previous roster changes is that there is no sign of a suitable replacement. No next man up that you can readily point to and see a glimpse of hope for the future.

When the Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs, they were able to absorb those losses to their rotation easily. They had (and still have) a stable of pitchers that were developing in the minor leagues, with a new arm ready to step into the rotation.

Even today, the Rays could absorb the trade of a starter easily. They have eight pitchers on the roster that are legitimate major league starters with David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and Chris Archer.  

When Carl Crawford left to sign with the Boston Red Sox, the Rays had outfielder Desmond Jennings developing in the minors. Help is not on the immediate horizon this time. Even if Jennings moves over to center field, it only shifts the vacancy to left field.

Sam Fuld is an option, but he isn’t an everyday ball player and is a great defensive replacement and pinch-hitter for the team. Ben Zobrist could also start in the outfield, but his talents are much more needed at shortstop.

If only Rays shortstop prospect Tim Beckham would’ve panned out as planned when the team drafted him first overall in 2008. He could’ve filled the next-man-up role.

The team would certainly be in a better position. He could’ve filled the shortstop vacancy, thus allowing for an outfield of Matt Joyce, Jennings and Zobrist. Since he hasn’t, perhaps the answer is to tread water with Zobrist at shortstop until Rays top prospect Hak Ju-Lee is ready to for the majors.


Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or visit his website. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

5 MLB Prospects Who Could Be the Next B.J. Upton

Expected to be one of the more coveted free agents this winter, the sweepstakes for center fielder B.J. Upton concluded on Wednesday afternoon when he and the Atlanta Braves reached an agreement on a five-year, $75.25 million contract.

Selected by the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, Upton was regarded as a premium athlete—he was a shortstop at that time—with a relatively narrow gap between his natural ability and baseball skills.

Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when the Rays assigned the 6’3”, 185-pounder to Low-A to open his professional career in 2003. After posting an .839 OPS with 35 extra-base hits, 38 stolen bases and 80/57 K/BB in 101 games, Upton was bumped straight to Double-A for the remainder of the season. The right-handed hitter was anything but overmatched, as he batted .276/.376/.381 with 25/16 K/BB in 29 games.

Upton opened the 2004 season back at Double-A and quickly mastered the level (.327/.407/.471 in 29 games), which, in turn, prompted a promotion to Triple-A Durham. As expected, the then-19-year-old continued to rake, batting .311/.411/.519 with 30 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 17 stolen bases and 72/42 K/BB in 69 games. The promotions didn’t end there; he was called up to the major leagues in early August and impressed in a 45-game audition, posting a .733 OPS with 14 extra-base hits and 46/15 K/BB.

Yet he would ultimately spend both the 2005 and 2006 seasons back at Triple-A before finally earning an everyday gig with the Rays in 2007. At 22 years old, Upton quickly asserted himself as one of the game’s premier up-and-coming talents by batting .300/.386/.508 with 50 extra-base hits (24 home runs), 22 stolen bases and 154/65 K/BB in 129 games. All empirical evidence suggested that he was on the brink of superstardom.

Unfortunately, his 2007 campaign, which was good for a 4.1 WAR, still ranks as his best big-league season. Since then, he has been a model of inconsistency: His power numbers have fluctuated each season, and the hit tool, speed and advanced plate discipline that made him such a promising young player all have gradually declined.

Upton’s inability to put together a consistent, well-rounded season has made him a perennially frustrating player. With natural ability that grades through the roof and five seemingly above-average-to-plus tools, the 28-year-old has been unable to put it all together.

With that being said, as we shift our focus towards the minor leagues, are there any prospects with the potential to be the next B.J. Upton (or as I call him, BUpton)? More specifically, which prospects seem to flash baseball brilliance on a given day and then look completely lost the next?

Here’s a brief scouting overview of five highly-regarded prospects who appear to be cut from the same mold as Upton.

Begin Slideshow

What Dominoes Fall Next for the Atlanta Braves If B.J. Upton Signs with Them?

According to reports, the Atlanta Braves could get their man this week. 

Several insiders, including ESPN’s Jim Bowden, believe that the Braves are the leading contender to sign center fielder B.J. Upton. But only slightly. The bidding war between Atlanta and the Philadelphia Phillies looks to be a fierce one. 

Both teams need center fielders. Both need right-handed bats in their lineups. And each club would surely like to deprive an NL East division rival of its top free-agent target while improving its own roster with a star player.

However, it appears that the Braves have the edge for Upton. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the 28-year-old outfielder initially favored the Phillies when the free-agency period began. But after meeting with Braves general manager Frank Wren, former manager Bobby Cox and current skipper Fredi Gonzalez, Upton’s interest “seemed to soar.” 

Upton would obviously be a huge acquisition for Atlanta. First and foremost, he would replace Michael Bourn in center field. Perhaps Upton provides less defensive range, but he compensates with greater power and nearly the same level of speed. 

Whether Gonzalez chooses to bat the center fielder toward the top of the lineup or in the middle of the order as a run producer, Upton’s right-handed bat is a much-needed complement to a mix heavy in left-handed hitters with Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. 

But Wren won’t be done with his offseason shopping even if he lands Upton. The Braves still need another player to fill their vacancy in left field, with Martin Prado moving to third base to replace the retired Chipper Jones. 

Atlanta could also decide to keep Prado in left field and pursue a third baseman. But Kevin Youkilis seems to be the only notable player available at that position, and the Braves appear to be looking for a longer-term solution there. 

That leaves the trade option, which might suit the Braves better, because they have a surplus of starting pitching. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado could be used to get some help at third base. Tommy Hanson would also be a more veteran option, though he’s coming off a mediocre season. 

Do the Braves have enough to make the San Diego Padres consider trading Chase Headley?

The National League’s RBI leader would certainly be a great fit in the Atlanta lineup. Headley could be expected to exceed the 31 home runs he hit in 2012 batting in Turner Field rather than Petco Park, even with the Padres moving its fences in next year. 

Another possibility—though perhaps not as long term of a solution—would be the Detroit Tigers‘ Jhonny Peralta.

The Tigers are reportedly looking to upgrade defensively at shortstop by signing Stephen Drew. Peralta could then be dealt to a team seeking help at third base. The Arizona Diamondbacks are reportedly interested, but could the Braves be intrigued as well? Peralta would certainly be an option less expensive than Headley

But the Braves apparently would prefer to bring in another outfielder. Bowman also mentions in his MLB.com report that Atlanta might have the resources to sign Upton and someone else to play left field. It’s believed that Upton will sign a contract in the range of five years for $75 million.

That could leave Atlanta with enough money to also go after Shane Victorino, who would bring speed, defense and some pop to the lineup. He will also likely be cheaper in a market rich with center fielders. 

However, if the Braves are looking to trade some of their starting pitching, they could probably get a player with the most upside in the outfield. Atlanta was previously rumored to be interested in Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler, but signing Upton addresses that need. 

But what about Wil Myers? The Kansas City Star‘s Bob Dutton reports that the Royals are open to trading their top prospect for a No. 1 starting pitcher. Between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Myers hit .314 with a .987 OPS, 37 homers and 109 RBI. 

The only problem for Atlanta here is that the Royals are looking for a veteran No. 1 starter. Rumors have attached Kansas City to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester or the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields. The Royals aren’t interested in prospects like Teheran or Delgado, as highly regarded as they might be. They need a proven, top-of-the-rotation ace. 

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions another Royal as a possibility. Could Alex Gordon be someone who interests the Braves? He’s a left fielder, which fits right into their lineup. 

Defensively, Gordon has won two straight Gold Gloves, and FanGraphs‘ Ultimate Zone Rating credits him with saving 14 runs more than the average left fielder. Additionally, he earned 24 defensive runs saved this season, the third-highest total in MLB. 

Gordon led the majors with 51 doubles this season to go with 14 home runs, 72 RBI and an .822 OPS. He does bat left-handed, but if the Braves add Upton to their lineup, that likely won’t be as much of a concern for them. 

Yet one more player to consider would be the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton. But the D-Backs want a shortstop. Arizona GM Kevin Towers reportedly covets Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but Atlanta doesn’t want to trade him. No deal there.

Regardless, the Braves’ offseason could get off to an excellent start just before baseball’s winter meetings and might get even more intriguing as the offseason progresses. Atlanta could very well be the team to watch next week (Dec. 3-6) in Nashville. 


Follow @iancass on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Decisions Looming for the Atlanta Braves’ Roster for 2013

The plan was for Turner Field to still be filing in nearly 50,000 Braves fans for the postseason. Unfortunately, the lasting images remembered are the cleanup crews picking up debris from angry Atlanta fans after the infield fly call made by Sam Holbrook and Chipper Jones walking off the diamond for the final time. It wasn’t suppose to end that way. 

Nonetheless, decisions have to be made about the 2013 club. Who will replace Chipper at third? Will they re-sign gold-glove center fielder Michael Bourn? Do Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm fit into their plans next season? Will Martin Prado and Jason Heyward receive long-term contracts? Who are free-agent and trade targets?

Those are just a few items on the docket for General Manager Frank Wren this winter. 

The Braves have nearly $30 million to spend after the contracts of Chipper Jones ($14 million), Derek Lowe ($10 million) and Michael Bourn ($6.8 million) are erased from the books. Expect starter Jair Jurrjens, who made $5.5 million in 2012, to be non-tendered or released.

Atlanta is expected to pick up the options of Brian McCann ($12 million), Tim Hudson ($9 million) and Paul Maholm ($6.5 million)—as they should. All three are key components to the team’s success. 

The Braves could re-sign David Ross because of McCann’s shoulder surgery, which will sideline him at least through the majority of spring training.

It may be the perfect time to look into long-term contracts for Martin Prado and outfielder Jason Heyward

Prado was arguably the most valuable player for the Braves in 2012 with a .301 average. He also led the league in two-strike base hits (93). He can play a number of positions if needed. He is signed through 2013, and the organization can’t risk losing a high-caliber player like Prado after next season.


Heyward, 23, had a bounce-back 2012 campaign after a sophomore year in which he was plagued by injuries and constant struggles. The 2007 first-round pick set career highs in runs, homers, RBI, stolen bases and slugging percentage. He was spectacular in right field, as he made some big catches for Atlanta in key moments throughout the season. It will be cheaper to get a long-term deal done rather than going through the eventual arbitration process.

The starting rotation is likely to be set with Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Hudson and Maholm. Brandon Beachy is on track to re-join the rotation from “Tommy John” elbow surgery around the All-Star break. 

The two biggest decisions facing the Braves in the off-season are at third and the outfield. The likelihood is Prado finds a home at third. The Braves have played the 28-year-old at multiple positions, primarily left field since the acquisition of Dan Uggla before the 2011 season.

The outfield could go a number of different ways: re-sign Michael Bourn and bring back Jose Constanza to play left or let Bourn go and find two cheaper options to play left and center.

Bourn is expected to net around $15 million a year from a club in the free-agent market. The Braves can afford it, but it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible. There are cheaper targets out there via free-agency or the trade market. 

B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Angel Pagan and Cody Ross are all potential free-agent targets for Atlanta. None will command the level of money that Bourn will this winter. 

Upton, 28, is looking for a fresh start after spending his entire career to this point with the Tampa Bay Rays. The center fielder hit 28 homers in 2012. The level of consistency may be a concern for him. Other than 2007 when he hit .300, the former first-round selection has a career average of .248.

Victorino, whom the Braves know well from his days in Philadelphia, could be an option, as the Dodgers may not see him as a fit with Carl Crawford’s eventual return from Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old has a career .333 average in 60 games at Turner Field, which is tops among national league ballparks.

Pagan is familiar with the N.L. East from his days with the New York Mets. The outfielder hit .288 with eight homers and 56 RBI in 154 games with the Giants. He would be a cheaper option for Atlanta, as he would command in the area of $5 million after making $4.85 million in 2012. Pagan hit .290 in 80 games as the San Francisco lead-off hitter this season.

Braves fans remember how Ross tormented them during the 2010 postseason. A big game-tying home run and a go-ahead single lifted the Giants to a 3-2 game four victory in Bobby Cox’s last game as Atlanta’s manager. The 31-year-old Ross played well in his second stint in the A.L, as he batted .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI in 130 games with the Boston Red Sox. Ross has a career .300 average at Turner Field in 31 games and would see regular time as the left fielder. 

Josh Willingham is a perfect fit for the Braves via the trade market if they wish to pursue it. The 33-year-old, who is owed $14 million through 2014, hit 35 home runs and 110 RBI for the Minnesota Twins in 2012. The $7 million a year price tag combined with the level of production annually should garner the Braves’ interest. 

The bullpen should be a strength for the Braves again in 2013 with the return of closer Craig Kimbrel, who has saved 88 games in his two full seasons in the majors. Top left-handed setup man Eric O’Flaherty will be entering into his final arbitration year and could make upwards of $4 million.

Christian Martinez, Luis Avilan, Jonny Venters, Cory Gearrin, Chad Durbin and Peter Moylan are all expected to be in the mix for spots again in 2013. 

Important decisions will be made this winter, but the Braves should be at or near the top of the division standings again next season. 


Follow me on Twitter @Andrew_Vig

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

How Protected 2013 1st Round Picks Impact Red Sox, Cubs Free Agent Frenzy

With only one game remaining in the 2012 season, an intriguing aspect of Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement will come into play for the first time.

In addition to the team(s) who failed to sign their respective first-round draft pick, the bottom nine teams—as determined by overall record—will be awarded a protected first-round draft pick.

So why is a protected draft pick such a big deal? Well, under the new CBA, the first 10 picks in the MLB First-Year Player Draft are all locked, essentially.

Therefore, in an attempt to level the playing field, the bottom nine teams will be able sign the top free agents on the market without sacrificing their first-round draft pick. Rather, any team who ultimately signs a top-ranked free agent will instead part with their second-round pick.

No matter how Wednesday’s games play out, the bottom nine has already been solidified (via MLB Trade Rumors). Of those nine teams—well, 10 including the Pirates who failed to sign Mark Appel—the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox are the two who stand to gain the most from the recently implemented, protected draft pick clause. Both teams are centered in major markets, and despite the midseason cost-cutting trades, they have traditionally boasted high payrolls.

So, both the Cubs (No. 2 overall) and Red Sox (No. 7 overall) are guaranteed to retain their first-round draft picks regardless of any free-agent pursuits this offseason.

Therefore, the Cubs can attempt to land a highly-coveted outfielder like B.J. Upton without surrendering a top draft pick—as they would have been forced to do in previous years.

Similarly, the Red Sox will be free to pursue a frontline starting pitcher, such as James Shields, Zack Greinke or Ryan Dempster.

Essentially, the implementation of protected draft picks will allow more teams to become competitive faster. For large-market franchises like the Cubs and Red Sox, it provides an opportunity to both improve the on-field product without sacrificing the future.

For other bottom nine teams like the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins, it’s another chance to add a highly talented prospect to a rapidly improving farm system.

Either way, it’s a provision that will only make the draft even more exciting than it already is, and, hopefully, promote a competitive balance throughout Major League Baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress