The blockbuster that’s been waiting to happen all winter has finally come to fruition; the Atlanta Braves win the Justin Upton sweepstakes, as he will join his brother B.J. at Turner Field for at least the next three years. In addition to Upton, Frank Wren also acquired third baseman Chris Johnson, and sent away Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury.
Once the deal hit the internet, both sides were quick to announce it and make everything official, as I assume Kevin Towers really wanted to wrap this situation up and put a bow on top before he heads out for vacation today. He eventually got what he wanted, uncrowding his outfield by subtracting Upton, and now will be keeping Jason Kubel. The Diamondbacks pushed hard to include infielder Martin Prado in the deal, and although he has a pending arbitration case and is scheduled to hit free agency after next season, the team is “quite optimistic” they’ll be able to agree to a multi-year extension, somewhere in the neighborhood of three of four years.
It’s definitely frustrating to not only watch Upton not land with the Mets, but with the Braves in the NL East. However, it’s pretty clear Towers wanted an MLB-ready infielder in the deal. With David Wright and Ike Davis off limits, I don’t think either Ruben Tejada or Daniel Murphy would have been attractive enough, especially since he had his heart set on either Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, or Travis d’Arnaud. However, now that Upton is off the market, everyone’s focus now shifts to free agent center fielder, Michael Bourn. And what a surprise, the Mets “like” him.
I mean, who wouldn’t, right? He’s an established lead-off hitter that has 40+ stolen base potential every year, and will give any team Gold Glove-caliber defense. The Scott Boras client is looking for a deal somewhere in line with B.J. Upton‘s (five-years/$75 million), which he’s been in search of all winter. Sandy Alderson and company have had plenty of internal discussions regarding Bourn; Ken Rosenthal’s source says their interest is legit, and any deal they present would be backloaded since lots of payroll would clear after 2013 and the National TV deal would also kick in.
Since the Pirates failed to sign their top-pick last year, they’ve bumped the Mets’ first pick in next year’s draft to the 11th spot, leaving it unprotected. New York has lobbied to the MLB to have it protected since their 74-88 record would have allowed them to protect their first overall pick, if Pittsburgh didn’t drop the ball (no pun intended). However, MLB has said the Amazins must make a legitimate effort to sign Bourn first, and as it becomes closer to reality, the league will make a decision. So, that doesn’t give Alderson any piece of mind. It looks as though his two suitors at this point are the Mets and Mariners, and if New York can give him the money he wants over three guaranteed years with possibly an option for the fourth year, I’d be OK with this happening. Kevin Baez also thinks Bourn is worth the risk, as he made his case for the outfielder last night on Rising Apple. Meanwhile, Rich Sparago also gave his two cents on the situation.
With all this outfield news coming through yesterday, it’s easy lose Sandy’s first Major League free agent signing of the winter, as New York agreed in principle to sign starting pitcher Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal, pending a physical. This is a great signing for the Mets, as I felt he was the best option left on the free agent market for those willing to accept this kind of deal. Now, the rotation is set for this season, and Sandy can focus his efforts on putting the finishing touches on the bullpen and do something else for the outfield.
If nothing happens and New York heads to Port St. Lucie with the roster they currently have (i.e. no Bourn), Terry Collins is planning on giving both Justin Turner and Zach Lutz some reps in the outfield. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York explains that with Lucas Duda handling left field, Kirk Nieuwenheis and Coillin Cowgill forming a platoon in center, another righty will be needed to compliment Mike Baxter, if Andrew Brown doesn’t pan out. So, they’ll run out Turner, who last played the outfield in rookie ball back in 2006 (8 games) and Lutz (only played in the infield during his professional career), and see what they have. At this point, there’s not much to lose, especially if no one else is acquired before the official report date arrives.