Free agent center fielder B.J. Upton spent Thursday touring Turner Field in Atlanta with Braves' GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez, according to Mark Bowman. The Braves are hoping Upton comes to Atlanta to fill their vacancy in center field left by departing free agent Michael Bourn.
According to Bowman, the Braves may be leaning toward Upton due to worries about how the 30-year-old Bourn will age. With a game predicated almost entirely on speed, they could be afraid that his performance could fall off precipitously in the coming years. Upton is two years younger and derives his value on the field from a much broader base of skills. Although he does not possess the blazing speed that Bourn has, he is still considered a strong defense center fielder and is a great base-stealer in his own right. He has swiped more than 30 bags in each of the last five seasons. He is also a legitimate power threat, as he hit 28 home runs last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. Bourn has 22 home runs in his entire seven-year career.
The Braves may have some NL East competition for Bossman Junior, though, as the Philadelphia Phillies are also reportedly pursuing him aggressively. Shane Victorino had been a staple of the Phillies' outfield for a number of years, but he was traded away to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July and is now also a free agent. The Phillies could look to Upton's dynamic skills to help jump-start their aging offense.