The Atlanta Braves remain in the market for another outfielder. Two prime candidates could still be had via the free agent and trade markets.
Michael Bourn is still lingering as a free agent, and many teams are weary of signing him long term. The recently turned 30-year-old is also linked to draft compensation. The outfielder finished with a career high nine home runs and 57 RBI in 155 games in 2012.
The Houston, Texas native started out strong as he posted a .311/.366/.451 batting line in the first half, but struggled noticeably after the All-Star break with a .225/.325/.311 clip. The second half of last season did not help his free agent stock.
It can be argued that the two-time gold glove award winner has been the victim of bad luck this offseason. Teams who were in the market for his services moved in another direction. The Washington Nationals acquired Denard Span. Philadelphia traded for Ben Revere. Shin-Soo Choo was dealt to Cincinnati in a three-team trade and San Francisco re-signed Angel Pagan.
It seemed Atlanta was out of the mix when they inked the older B.J. Upton to a five-year $75 million contract in November. However, the fact that Bourn remains a free agent could entice the Braves' curiosity about bringing him back on a shorter length deal.
What works in Atlanta's favor is that Bourn's price could slowly be decreasing daily as Spring Training is looming. No team has shown interest in giving the Scott Boras client a deal north of three years and $15 million annually and in addition give up their top pick. If the asking price were to decrease by about $3-to-$4 million per year, Atlanta could feasibly consider bringing him aboard on a short-term contract.
Everyone knows what Bourn can bring to the table for a team. He's a huge threat on the base path, top-notch defensively and a great clubhouse presence. The overlying concern for him is his ability to play through any long-term contract. If he is signed to a contract that exceeds three years, will he still be the speed and stolen base guy that earned him the big contract? Bourn doesn't have the power bat to be moved to a corner outfield spot later on in his career.
The Diamondbacks are considering trade offers for their star outfielder Justin Upton. The Braves were reportedly interested in the 25-year-old earlier in the offseason, but were told young shortstop Andrelton Simmons must be included in a package. Atlanta declined any possibility of that happening.
The younger Upton—who was the number one overall selection by Arizona in the 2005 draft—struggled to duplicate his power production from 2011 as he finished with 17 home runs and 67 RBI in 2012. He posted 31 homers and 88 RBI in 2011.
The Braves would be filling a big need by acquiring Upton. An outfield of the two Upton brothers and Jason Heyward is very intriguing to Atlanta fans.
Upton has an affordable contract and is under team control for another three seasons. Any package of prospects Atlanta would be forced to give up, would be worth it for the duration of Upton's remaining contract. One of either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado would most certainly need to be included to entice Arizona general manager Kevin Towers. It depends on the other young players Arizona would covet as to if a trade could ever be agreed too.
Arizona would be smart to hold on to their prized outfielder and hope that he preforms to the level of his capabilities. It would not make sense to deal a strong player like Upton too soon when he has an affordable contract moving forward.
Either way, the Braves could find a home with one of them in the outfield. If they were to re-sign Bourn, they could place him in center field and move Upton to left field. If they were to acquire Justin from Arizona, they could move him to left field and keep B.J. in center field.
There are internal options Atlanta could choose as well, but for the sake of debate: Bourn or Upton?