The Atlanta Braves have dipped into the free agent market in a big way, signing center fielder B.J. Upton to a five year $75 million contract -- the largest free agent contact the Braves have ever given a player.
Upton leaves the American League and the Tampa Bay Rays for the National League. He is an eight year major league veteran, but still young at 28 years of age. His relative young age was likely one of the factors that attracted the Braves to Upton as he will be just 33 in the final year of his contract.
He brings with him a rare speed and power combo that will match well with Jason Heyward in the outfield and in the middle of the order. He is also right-handed, which is a big reason the Braves targeted him -- needing a right-handed bat in the middle of the order to balance out the left-handedness of Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann.
Upton is not really a leadoff hitter, as he doesn't get on base enough, so he will likely hit someone in the middle of the order and play center field. Internal leadoff options for the Braves include Martin Prado and Andrelton Simmons. Both get on base enough, and Simmons has good speed on the bases.
The Braves are expected to continue to add to their roster this winter by acquiring a left fielder. But with Upton on board they only have one spot "left" to focus on.
With the Upton signing, the Braves will lose their first round draft pick next year, but under the new rules the Rays will not get that pick. The Rays will instead get a pick in the compensation round between the first and second rounds. The Braves will also have a pick in that compensation round once Michael Bourn signs with another team. With this new system, the Braves will essentially only drop 10 to 15 spots for their first pick of the 2013 draft.