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B.J. Upton Receives Both A Lot And Not A Lot Of Money From The Braves

November 28, 2012

Former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton has agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million deal with the Atlanta Braves according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Upton, who is coming off of a .246/.298/.454 season with a career-high 28 home runs, was considered by most to be the top free agent center fielder on the market. Upton has been both very consistent (aside from 2009, Upton has been worth between 3.3 and 5 WAR every season since 2007) and extremely inconsistent (his walk rate has fluctuated between 7.1% and 15.5%; his strikeout rate between 20.9 and 28.1%) in his time in the major leagues, if that makes any sense. So did the Braves spend their money wisely?

Upton hitting a home run, probably. Or maybe a fly out! Who knows?!

Bossman Junior has been around so long, it’s easy to forget that he’s only going to be 28-years-old next season. Upton was the second overall pick in the first round of the 2002 draft out of high school, where he was drafted as a shortstop. That didn’t last long though, as Upton’s position has been center field since mid-2007.

Upton has a career .255/.336/.422 line, with 118 career home runs. Given the hype, it seems a bit disappointing, but one does have to consider that he’s played all of his home games thus far in a pitcher’s park. I’m not saying he’s going to become his brother upon leaving St. Petersburg, but his numbers should see some sort of uptick. It seems as though you can expect 20-25 home runs out of him in any given season, and maybe that average will creep up in Atlanta.

A big part of Upton’s value has been derived from his defense; Upton has averaged a +4 UZR/150 rating in center field since his debut. A lot of that can be attributed to his plus speed, which is also evident on the basepaths–Upton has stolen between 31 and 44 bases every year since 2008.

So what we’re seeing is basically a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. That’s not a very flashy player, but it is definitely a valuable one. At a market value of about ~$5 million per win, Upton was worth about $16.5 million last year. That’s the worst year he’s had since 2009, too. On a deal that averages $15.5 million a year, it’s looking like Upton is a solid bet to at least be equal value on the contract, and perhaps better if he returns to his 4+ WAR form from 2010 and 2011–which isn’t all that far-fetched, considering he’s only 28-years-old.

All things considered, the Braves at worst likely paid market value for Upton. At best, they’re getting a pretty large bargain. If this sets the market for outfielders, you have to feel pretty good about the kind of contracts that Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton should get. That’s not a guarantee, but this contract sure makes it seem like the market isn’t going be exceptionally large for outfielders this offseason.

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