Note to Braves Journal newbies: Every offseason here at Braves Journal, we run a series of posts called “Where Do We Go From Here?” The first one of the 2014 offseason is from Smitty.
Other than hiring a General Manger, the most important decision the Braves face this offseason is, “What do we do with BJ Upton?” Ultimately, the final answer of this question could determine the next two to three seasons.
As you know, BJ Upton was signed by the recently departed Frank Wren prior to the 2013 season. This signing and the theft of his brother, Justin, were probably the best and worst moves of the Wren era. While Justin’s performance has been outstanding, BJ has been terrible. Whenever you have a season where you add 24 points to your batting average, and people still claim your season was a failure, it’s bad!
Let’s break it down by options:
A key reference point here is that BJ is owed $45,350,000 through the 2017 season, according to Baseball Reference.com.
1. The Win the Powerball Twice and Develop Superman Powers Scenario: The Braves trade BJ Upton to a team willing to pick up the full tab
There is no way I see this happening. There was a better, albeit small, chance last offseason of this scenario happening. However, when you put up back to back negative WAR seasons, no one will want you. Unless I am hired by the Phillies to be their GM, no one is going to pick up the $45,350,000 contract of doom.
2. The One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure, or Something Scenario: The Braves trade BJ Upton to a team that will pick up the tab, if we throw in value and/or take a bad contract back
There were rumors abound in July that the Cubs and Braves discussed an Edwin Jackson for BJ Upton deal. Baseball Reference notes Jackson is owed $22 million for 2014-2015 and had an ERA of 5.58 over his last two seasons in the Friendly Confines. While the money doesn’t match up, the Cubs might kick in some salary relief if the Braves include, say, Mike Minor.
I think there are a few teams that may listen to us (Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees…) and may take BJ off our hands. A deal like this would cost obviously cost us something of value.
I actually think this is the scenario that will happen. It will test our new GM right out of the gate and could be the move that defines him early on.
3. The Dan Uggla Scenario: The Braves release BJ Upton
This scenario may happen if the Braves don’t find a taker before the start of Spring Training. I am not sure Liberty Media will be too happy with this, but if the Braves don’t feel BJ can contribute and no one will take him, this is what you probably have to do. Another season like the last two will start to be a massive clubhouse distraction. We know how the Braves feel about that.
Under this scenario, the Braves may save some money if anyone picks up BJ, though it probably wouldn’t be more than the league minimum. Maybe Liberty Media agree it is sunk cost and since we have played the “front office shuffle,” they will eat some of the cost and allow the Braves some payroll latitude.
4. The Left Field Scenario: The Braves keep BJ Upton
As noted above, BJ’s brother is on the team and is a free agent next year. I am sure the Braves would like to keep him and they way they handle this could will be a factor in that decision. Maybe Justin gives the Braves a discount for the way this all goes down and to play with his brother for a few more years. Maybe the Braves decide to give the new hitting coach a shot to correct BJ’s issues. Maybe BJ starts taking PEDs and shows off in winter workouts.
5. The Gold Watch Scenario: BJ Upton Retires
This is the scenario that ranks up there with me being named GM of the Phillies. I guess there is a chance BJ is mentally fatigued and says, “I’ve lost it.” After a winter of failing to make contact with 75 mph fastballs from a machine, BJ calls a press conference at Turner Field. With his brother and father flanking his sides, he tearfully makes the following announcement:
“After playing a game all of my life, I now have reached the end of my life in baseball. When I came to Atlanta a few years ago, I dreamed the organization would take the next step and we would hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy as the (Royals/Giants) did a few months ago. I became even more excited when the Braves added my brother to the roster and was able to live a dream of playing with my brother and best friend.
I would like to thank God, my family, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves for making this an incredible ride. I am thankful the Braves will allow me to serve as Assistant Secretary of Minor League Base Running Development and Overseer of Baseballs.”
Assistant Secretary of Minor League Base Running Development and Overseer of Baseballs does have a nice ring to it.