Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finding a Home for B.J. Upton

It's no secret that B.J. Upton's time in Atlanta has been thoroughly disappointing. When Frank Wren and the Braves signed Upton, the thinking was that his skill set would be less likely to regress as quickly as other center fielders such as Michael Bourn or Shane Victorino. And that second part was solid thinking because Victorino has been limited to a 152 games the last two seasons while Bourn has stolen nine fewer bases since leaving Atlanta than he did in his only full season in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Upton crashed and crashed badly. He hasn't been the worst player over the last two seasons because average defense in center is still kind of valuable, but he's definitely one of the top bottom ten in the game since the beginning of 2013.

With a shade over $46M left over the final three years of his contract, getting rid of Upton is not easy for John Hart and his team and even if you were able to, you almost certainly are trying the "fresh start" trade where you exchange under-performing players with similar contracts. But maybe it's possible. Let's see.

Trade B.J. to Baltimore for RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

The 30 year-old who famously was an absolute ace in 2010 before struggling just finished up the first of four years with the Orioles and according to reports, Baltimore is ready and willing to move him. Ubaldo finished up rather well in 2013, but missed time and wasn't even on the playoff roster back in October. Ubaldo also continues to lose velocity, going from an average of 96 mph in 2010 to between 90 and 91 mph last year. That is majorly concerning, but beggers can't be choosers. Ubaldo is owed about $3M less so the Braves might need to even it out with some cash. This could also be the beginnings of a bigger deal. The Orioles could use Evan Gattis while the Braves might be able to utilize the services of Cuban-born Dariel Alvarez and pitcher Zach Davies. Course, the Braves would need to check on Ubaldo's arm and shoulder.

Trade B.J. to Cleveland for 1B/OF Nick Swisher

Hey, stop laughing. I'm serious, stop laughing! Swish actually was worse than BJ last year. He's owed $44M over the next three seasons, but in his favor is that his 2017 salary is tied into a vesting option (he needs 550 PA in 2016 and he has to pass a physical after the season). Now, a deal like this would start a string of dominoes. The Braves, unless they want Jason Heyward playing center, would need to trade him or B.J.'s younger brother, Justin. The Indians would need to trade Michael Bourn to open up center. This would essentially be a do-over for both teams and start things fresh for both players, though. And if anyone wants to talk about Swish's defense in left...listen, the Braves are considering Gattis in left. They don't give a shit about defense.

Trade B.J. and a couple of Brinks trucks to Chicago Cubs for RHP Edwin Jackson

There was talk last summer that this deal was at least discussed between the two parties. Jackson has been underwhelming in his two seasons with the Cubbies and has two years and $22M left, which in itself would likely make this deal difficult to do. The Braves would have to pitch in money to make this deal happen. The Cubs might want to give away Jackson, but to take back B.J. might be too much for them to consider.

Three kind of reasonable exchanges for B.J. You could certainly do some rosterbation that includes scenarios that send B.J. to Detroit, Toronto, or even Philadelphia, but I felt I couldn't even classify those locales as reasonable. Any of these places likely? Hell no. What is likely is that B.J. Upton will be a Brave through 2016 at least. But acknowledging that from the get-go would have kept this post from being written and depending on your level of boredom, that might have been the best route...

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