B.J. Upton Inks Historic $75-Million Deal With Braves

B.J. Upton signed the richest contract in Atlanta Braves history Wednesday, a five-year, $75.2-million deal that initiates what promises to be an active free-agent season in baseball.

Upton, whose father Manny and uncle Bill Upton, were baseball stars at Norfolk State University in the 1980s, refused a one-year, $13-million offer from his old team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to test the open market.

The Braves swooped in, as they were intent on filling the position vacated by free agent Michael Bourn, whose asking price would likely been too expensive for Atlanta’s budget. Upton’s contract easily eclipses the Derek Lowe’s four-year, $60 million deal as the Braves’ largest ever contract.

Upton, 28, whose younger brother Justin is a star with the Arizona Diamondbacks, had spent his entire career with the Rays and hit .246 with a career-high 28 homers along with 31 stolen bases in 2012 — an off year for him. He will provide the Braves a some right-handed power in the middle of the lineup and pair with right-fielder Jason Heyward to give them two-thirds of a strong outfield.

Inking Upton allows the Braves to move on to fill other needs, most notably left field. Once, Upton had the speed to be a leadoff hitter, but no more. Now, they are, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constituion, considering Minnesota’s Denard Span, who could play left field and be the leadoff batter that Bourn was last season.

A source close to the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Upton wanted the Braves over the Philadelphia Phillies, and his agent, Larry Reynolds, and the team worked long and hard to come to an agreement.

Upton actually sought a sixth-year contract, but the Braves would not go that far.

On the field, Upton has increased his home-run totals each of the past four seasons, and has 51 homers and 159 RBIs over the past two years.

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