B.J. Upton, Braves strike $75M deal

Tim Brown

Headed toward their first season in 19 years without Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday were on the verge of signing free-agent center fielder B.J. Upton to a five-year contract worth up to $75.3 million, according to reports out of Atlanta.

While the Braves were considering life without Chipper, of more immediate concern was a lineup without center fielder Michael Bourn, a Scott Boras client and also a free agent. They moved quickly on Upton, whom they hosted in Atlanta two weeks ago. Upton also drew interest from the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, among other clubs.

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The deal is expected to be announced Thursday after Upton passes a physical, the Associated Press reported Wednesday night.

The addition of Upton, a right-handed hitter with more power than Bourn, will serve to balance a left-leaning Braves lineup.

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The Phillies, like the Nationals, are expected to continue their search for a center fielder. Bourn, Angel Pagan, former Phillie Shane Victorino and, should they choose to invest more, Josh Hamilton are available.

Drafted with the second overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2002, Upton played eight major-league seasons in St. Petersburg. While his batting average and on-base percentage slipped and his strikeouts rose in 2012, he hit a career-high 28 home runs.

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