B.J. Upton Rumors

B.J. Upton Rumors: Sunday

Last night, we learned B.J. Upton is looking to make a decision sometime this week. Here are the latest rumors about the fifth-ranked player on MLBTR's Top 50 Free Agents list:

  • The Braves and Phillies are locked in a fascinating bidding war with a mystery third team, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio. The Braves are considered to have a slight lead with final offers due this week.
  • Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets he believes the Braves and Phillies are the two finalists for Upton, but the Reds also have some interest and possibly the Nationals.
  • O'Brien predicts the Braves will pay more than they wanted and sign Upton, although he thinks Michael Bourn is a better fit (Twitter links).
  • One aftershock of Upton's decision will be the pursuit of the Rockies' Dexter Fowler, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. If the Braves do sign Upton, the Phillies and Nationals could emerge as trade partners and the asking price will be very high.

Quick Hits: Upton, Figgins, Raburn, Rays, Orioles

Here's the latest from around the league as Saturday turns into Sunday…

Poll: Next Top Ten Free Agent To Sign

So far this offseason, only one of Tim Dierkes’ Top Ten Free Agents has signed a new contract: Hiroki Kuroda (#9) re-upped with the Yankees. That’s not at all uncommon at this point of the winter, as most top free agents tend to wait until the Winter Meetings in early-December before deciding on their next baseball home.

The market for outfielders Josh Hamilton (#2), Michael Bourn (#3), B.J. Upton (#5), and Nick Swisher (#6) have been pretty robust so far, ditto Zack Greinke (#1). Anibal Sanchez (#4) has generated some buzz as well, but things have been slow for Edwin Jackson (#7), Dan Haren (#8), and Kyle Lohse (#10). That will change soon enough. One of these guys will soon follow in Kuroda’s footsteps and ink a new deal, but who will it be first?

Amaro On Phillies, Upton, Bourn, Marlins

The Phillies haven’t made any major additions to their team to this point in the offseason, but they continue working to address their biggest needs, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “We’ve had some good discussions, some fruitful discussions, with agents as well as other clubs,” Amaro said. “There are some situations where we’re waiting right now on someone to say ‘yes,’ and other situations where other teams are waiting for us to say ‘yes.’ It’s an interesting dynamic right now.” Here’s the latest on the Phillies, who are looking to contend again following an 81-81 season in 2012:

  • Amaro still wants to add at least one outfielder and a veteran reliever for the eighth inning. The club could also pursue help at third base, though that could depend on the team’s search for outfielders.
  • Reading between the lines, Salisbury suggests the Phillies have reached out to the Marlins to see if they’d trade Giancarlo Stanton in a follow up to Miami’s recent blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays. “We’ve made some inquiries about a lot of players that went in that trade, both to Toronto and to Miami,” the GM acknowledged. “But nothing imminent so far.”
  • Amaro said he has not received any indication that former Phillies closer Ryan Madson is opposed to pitching in a setup role. Madson underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season and is now a free agent.
  • While B.J. Upton appears to be the Phillies’ top target, Amaro also mentioned free agents Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino as other potential center field options. “We can’t put all our resources in one area and not address others,” Amaro said. He added that the Phillies are more likely to add an outfielder or two in free agency than via trades.
  • Earlier this month I previewed the Phillies’ offseason.

Center Field Top Priority For Phillies

The Phillies are putting other needs on hold until they sign a center fielder, agents and executives told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. B.J. Upton has been identified as a priority for the Phillies, who invited the free agent to visit their park and city last week.

The 28-year-old could seek a six-year deal and while the Phillies probably prefer a four-year term, Gelb suggests they might be willing to go to five years. The Phillies are also fond of Michael Bourn and have confidence that he could handle playing in Philadelphia, Gelb writes. Other potential targets include free agent Angel Pagan and trade candidates such as Dexter Fowler and Denard Span.

The Braves also have strong interest in Upton — he appears to be their top target. The Nationals have at least some interest in Upton, who ranks fifth on MLBTR’s list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents. As I explained earlier this month, the Phillies also have needs at third base and in the bullpen this winter.

Braves Continue Pursuing B.J. Upton

The Braves are considering multiple center fielders in free agency and on the trade market as they look for a replacement for free agent Michael Bourn. B.J. Upton remains the Braves' top choice at the position, Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday. Braves GM Frank Wren acknowledged his interest in Upton while stressing the importance of pursuing multiple players at once.

“We’re checking,” Wren said. “We’re involved on just about everything, every center fielder that we like.”

Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Angel Pagan are alternatives for the Braves in case their pursuit of Upton doesn't end in a deal. Though signing Hamilton seems "highly unlikely" to Wren, he said it's too early to rule anything out.

Upton, who met with the Braves and Phillies last week, could take more recruiting trips, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported yesterday (on Twitter). The Phillies could be the favorites for now, according to Knobler. The Nationals also appear to have some interest in the 28-year-old, who ranked fifth on MLBTR’s list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents.

NL Notes: LaRoche, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals

Today is the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player to win the MVP Award. This would be the only such honor during Robinson's Hall of Fame career. Here's the latest news from the Senior Circuit:

  • Negotiations between the Nationals and Adam LaRoche are going slowly, a source tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The source also says LaRoche's top priority is to return to the Nationals, but the free agent first baseman is thinking about his two children, which is why he wants a three-year deal and has talked with several teams. 
  • A five-year, $75MM contract might be accurate for B.J. Upton but expect Michael Bourn to seek more, tweets Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Despite the declining influence of home runs to change a game, as typified by the Giants winning the World Series after slugging the fewest home runs in baseball, the Phillies still need a power surge in 2013, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Brookover.
  • Centerfield is one position where the Phillies could seek to boost their power output. ESPN's Buster Olney breaks down their various centerfield options in his latest Insiders-only blog.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer sees the Reds' 2013 payroll being $92MM, but a team insider tells him the actual number could start with an eight. This would make it difficult, in Fay's opinion, to do anything in free agency except sign a closer or re-sign Ryan Ludwick.
  • Within the same piece, GM Walt Jocketty says he will wait until after Thanksgiving to speak with Scott Rolen, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Cardinals' needs are simple for 2013, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team needs to reinforce a thin bench by adding some right-handed power and find a fourth outfielder who can generate some offense. Miklasz adds the health of shortstop Rafael Furcal is also a significant question.
  • Blessed with the deepest of pockets, the Dodgers' desire to pursue an elite starting pitcher reveals myriad ways the team can approach the process, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Common sense, however, may still prevail at Chavez Ravine as Dodgers controlling partner Mark Walter once eloquently stated, "Pitchers break." 

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.

Olney’s Latest: Bargains, Melky, Dodgers, Upton

In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote about several key market forces in play this offseason, including clubs clinging to their prospects perhaps a little too tightly. "They're still prospects, meaning that anything can happen. You still don't know whether they can play in the big leagues," said one GM. Here's the rest from Olney…

  • High asking prices have teams scrambling for bargains early this offseason. One-year deals for Bartolo Colon and Scott Baker are the types of signings we usually don't see until January, but this winter the big name players could be the last to sign.
  • The Blue Jays have driven the market so far, but other clubs starved for success figure to be big players as well. Olney listed the Mariners and Indians as two candidates.
  • Olney is surprised Melky Cabrera took a two-year contract from the Blue Jays only because a one-year deal would have allowed him to re-establish his value and seek a bigger payday next winter.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is working under orders to make the team better regardless of cost. "Cost is no object for them," said a GM. "They are playing a different game than the rest of us right now."
  • Olney says it would be a shock if the Marlins don't trade Giancarlo Stanton at some point in the next 20 months. He's not happy with the team and is unlikely to sign a long-term contract.
  • The Nationals have made contact with B.J. Upton, but he is an imperfect fit for their already right-handed heavy lineup.

Free Agent Faceoff: Michael Bourn vs. B.J. Upton

If you’re a team looking for a center fielder this offseason, you’re in luck. Two of the game’s best center fielders are on the free agent market, as Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton rank third and fifth on Tim Dierkes’ Top 50 Free Agents List, respectively. Both players offer speed and play a premium position, but the similarities stop there.

Bourn, a 29-year-old left-handed hitter, is a true leadoff hitter who posted a .274/.348/.391 batting line in 624 plate appearances for the Braves this season. He also stole 42 bases (fifth time over 40 in the last six years) and hit a career-high nine homers. According to UZR, Bourn has been baseball’s best defensive outfielder over the last three seasons (+35.3).

Upton, a 28-year-old right-handed hitter, is more of a middle of the order bat who put up a .246/.298/.454 line in 633 plate appearances for the Rays this year. He stole 31 bases (fifth straight year of 30+) and hit a career-high 28 homers. His walk rate, however, dipped to a career-low 7.1% (10.6% career). UZR has rated him as an average defender in center over the last three seasons (+0.4).

NL East Notes: Stanton, Upton, Mets, Salcedo

We've already had one collection of NL East Notes today, but there's no shortage of news coming out of the division.  Here's the latest…

  • Giancarlo Stanton is still upset about the Marlins' sudden rebuild, telling Peter Gammons of MLB.com that "former Marlins come back and they warn us" about the club's history of firesales and that it is a constant source of discussion amongst current players.  "This is the 'winning philosophy?' Then to say it's not about money? What is the motivation? There comes a breaking point. I know how I feel. I can't imagine how the city and the fans feel," Stanton said.
  • The Marlins and Blue Jays have officially filed the paperwork about their big 12-player trade with the league, reports Rogers Sportsnet's Shi Davidi (via Twitter).  Monday is the most likely date for the trade to be finalized, though it could happen over the weekend.
  • The Nationals have been in contact with free agent outfielder B.J. Upton, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, and are "expected to have increased communication" as the offseason progresses.  Upton visited the Braves and Phillies earlier this week.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson said his team will need "a little more clarity" on the contract situations of David Wright and R.A. Dickey by the time the Winter Meetings roll around, reports Newsday's Marc Carig.  "At some point we need resolution on these discussions to be able to move on. But that time is not now," Alderson said, aiming at the 10 days between Thanksgiving and the start of the Winter Meetings on December 3 as a prime negotiating period.
  • Edward Salcedo received a $1.6MM bonus from the Braves as an 18-year-old in 2010, though the 21-year-old hasn't yet lived up to his potential in the minors, writes David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.