In November of 2010, the Braves sent Omar Infante and Mike Dunn to the Florida Marlins for Dan Uggla. Whenever one of my favorite players is traded, I always have mixed feelings. I have a strong affinity for utility men, and Omar Infante had become one of my favorites during his three years with the Braves. Still, I knew the Braves needed a right handed power bat, so I understood that he was going to go. As a collector, it presented me with a dilemma. The first concerns the players departing the Braves. As fond as I was of Omar Infante, I don’t, as a rule, like to collect Braves players when they leave and start wearing the uniform of another team. I have made exceptions, but only for my absolute favorite players. (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Dale Murphy come to mind. As I wrote about three weeks ago, I suspect that Martin Prado is one of those guys that I will continue to collect.)
The other dilemma concerns the players heading to Atlanta. As you would expect, I’m eager to get the first cards of new Braves players in a Braves uniform. Specifically, I’m on the lookout for their first base card and their first Braves autograph. When the Braves acquired Dan Uggla, I had no intention of going after any of his old cards. If there’s anything I don’t want, it’s extra cards of players in a freaking Florida Marlins uniform! Then, something funny happened. After the trade, a Marlins fan posted his Uggla cards online looking to deal them. I emailed him about maybe dealing for one. The trade grew and I ended up with a mess of Uggla autos and relics, as well as a number of other cards. At the time, it was a fun deal and I loved having the cards. Now, I have some Atlanta versions of Uggla cards and the Fish cards feel like they’re in the way. Would I feel different if Uggla was hitting like it was 2008 or 2010? Perhaps, but I can only be so excited about a card of a guy in a Marlins uniform.
Here’s a look at the cards that are available of four of the Braves off-season acquisitions and a look at what it will take to acquire them.
I doubt there will be a Diamondbacks fan offering up his Justin Upton collection to me any time in the near future, so, if I want to acquire one of his cards, I will have to go after it. If we, as Braves fans, weren’t already familiar with Justin Upton’s resume before the deal, we certainly are now. In 2005, he wasn’t just a first round draft pick, he was the first pick in the draft. During his second year of minor league ball, Arizona decided he was ready and rushed him to the big leagues. In his third season, he was an All-Star and received MVP votes. Two years later he was an All-Star again and had a true MVP caliber season finishing fourth in the voting. Needless to say, Justin Upton has been a hobby favorite from day one and has been featured on numerous cards throughout his career.
I’ve said it time and time again, but the number one rookie card for any player is their Bowman Chrome auto. Justin Upton’s was released in 2006, and it will not come cheap. Right now on eBay, you can find the card in the 85 to 120 dollar range. For most of us, that’s a little high. Fortunately, there are a number of other options for certified autographs available. If you don’t mind unlicensed cards, there are numerous options in the 20 to 30 dollar range. I don’t collect unlicensed cards, so if I want one, I’ll have to go higher. Both Topps and Upper Deck have released numerous licensed autograph cards of Justin Upton that are selling at a price point between the unlicensed cards and the Bowman Chrome rookie. My personal favorite is his 2012 Topps Five Star Rainbow Relic. It’s a gorgeous signature and the card can be had in the 60 to 80 dollar range. I’ve got one on my watch list at eBay right now, but I haven’t pulled the trigger. I'm hoping I can snag it for closer to 50. (Of course, I might just end up buying some cards from my 1977 set that needs finishing. So little money to spend on baseball cards, so many options!)
Since Justin Upton was in Topps Series One as a Diamondback, I wouldn’t expect his first Braves base card to show up until Update Series. I won’t even venture a guess as to when his first Braves autograph will be inserted into a Topps product. Personally, I’m hoping for Topps Chrome, but time will tell.
Three years before his younger brother was the first pick in the draft, B. J. Upton was the second pick. Melvin, as it says on his birth certificate, hasn’t had the same success as his brother, but he did enter the league with a lot of hype. He also has a lot of cards, and, they are far more affordable. One of his best autograph cards comes from his draft year. You will find many listings on eBay selling his 2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premiers Future Gems Autograph in the 50+ dollar range, but don’t pay that. If you hold out, you’ll find it for as little as 25 dollars. There’s an even better choice though. His 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Stroke of Genius autograph is a stunner and can be had for right around 30 dollars. (I should point out that if a player has an autograph card in the Strokes of Genius subset in the 2008 Masterpieces set, then that is his best autograph card by default. It is easily my favorite signature set of all time.)
I’m reasonably certain that B.J.’s first appearance in a Braves uniform will be in Series Two.
After contending for the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2011, Jordan Walden found himself in virtually every product Topps was releasing. The hard throwing reliever looks to further strengthen what was already the best bullpen in baseball. If you want to get an early start on purchasing his autograph cards, there are numerous cheap options, as in less than 10 dollars, and maybe even less than 5 dollars. My personal favorite is his 2011 Topps Chrome auto. It’s a good quality signature, the auto is on card, there are plenty available, t’s a good shot of his overhand release, and I bought mine for 5 dollars with free shipping. I like his 2011 Topps Finest as well. He’s a got a good, cold hard stare going as he prepares to throw his pitch. The X-Fractor pictured above can be had for just 10 dollars. His regular Finest auto can be found for closer to 5.
There’s a chance that Walden could show up as a Brave in Series Two, but I think Update Series is more likely. I doubt he’ll be a priority for autographs.
I was a big David Ross fan and I always wanted more cards of his. I wanted Topps to release more cards of him. More than anything, I wanted them to give him an autograph in a Braves uniform. It didn’t happen. As a rule, Topps doesn’t give backup catchers autograph cards. They also don’t tend to get relic cards. The best we can hope for with Gerald Laird, as it always was with David Ross, is that he will actually get a base card this year. Typically, his existing cards have been released in Update Series. I expect that’s where we will see his first Braves card this year. If you want to pick up one of his existing cards, the vast majority of them will only set you back a buck. I’m not recommending one though, because none of them really stick out.