Inbox: What are the risks of signing a big name?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions
Besides the amount of money, what is the downside to picking up a star player like B.J. Upton or Nick Swisher?
-- Thomas H., Atlanta
Whether it is money, age, performance or a number of other variables, there is always a downside to picking up any free agent. With Michael Bourn, there are concerns about how valuable his legs will be near the end of a five-year deal. Some will say Swisher has benefited from Yankee Stadium's friendly dimensions, and others will point out that his home/road splits have been pretty similar over the past few years.
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Debate is what keeps the Hot Stove Season interesting. When it was announced the Braves had wooed Upton during a long meeting at Turner Field on Thursday, some fans were excited and others reacted with disdain. And there were also those who initially acted with disdain and then simply got excited about the prospect of adding a new outfielder with tremendous potential.
Upton has hit below .250 each of the past four seasons and he compiled a .298 on-base percentage while striking out a career-high 169 times this past season. The Braves are well aware of these numbers.
But at the same time, they know that his home run total has increased each of the past four years and that he has recorded at least 30 stolen bases each of the past five years. Still just 28-years-old, Upton has the potential to be the right-handed power source the Braves are seeking. Like Jason Heyward, he is quite capable of providing that rare blend of power and speed.
If I sit here and express concerns about the value the soon-to-be-30-year-old Bourn could bring with his aging legs in a few years, his agent, Scott Boras, will tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. In fact, that was essentially the message Boras delivered when I opined "buyer beware" when Andruw Jones was set to hit the free-agent market after the 2007 season.
I certainly did not expect Jones would hit .210 with 66 home runs and a .740 OPS while making a little more than $40 million over the past five seasons. But after watching him sacrifice his body while playing center field on a daily basis for more than 10 years in Atlanta, there seemed to be reason for concern.
At the same time, I thought the Braves were quite wise to give Dan Uggla a five-year, $62 million contract before the start of the 2011 season. Now that the 32-year-old Uggla has hit .227 with 55 homers and a .750 OPS in the first two years of the contract, there is certainly reason to wonder what value he will provide in the final three years of the deal.
The fact that nobody has ever been 100 percent accurate with their long-term projections stands as the Hot Stove season's only certainty. But isn't that what makes this time of year so much fun?
I heard that the Braves recently turned down a trade that would have sent Andrelton Simmons to the Rangers in exchange for Mike Olt in order to flip Simmons to the D-backs for Justin Upton. What are the chances that the Braves try to work the same deal with Nick Ahmed?
-- Ben T., Watkinsville, Ga.
That was seemingly one of those "Well, what if we ..." kind of offers. Can't blame the Rangers for asking. But Simmons is certainly not going anywhere unless another team is willing to provide a return that justifies the Braves trading away a 23-year-old prospect who is arguably already the game's top defensive shortstop.
If the D-backs end up willing to trade Upton, the one shortstop the Braves could use to sweeten the deal would be Ahmed, who caught the attention of some scouts during the Arizona Fall League. Ahmed has been described as a disciplined, blue-collar shortstop. Now that he has been seen playing on a regular basis in the AFL, his potential trade value could certainly increase.
Who will serve as Gerald Laird's backup until Brian McCann returns?
-- Josh E., Charleston, S.C.
This is something that will be determined once the Braves determine who is going to serve as Triple-A Gwinnett's catchers next year.
The Braves certainly know that Christian Bethancourt needs some more time to develop his offensive game in the Minors. But general manager Frank Wren said last week that he will not let the service clock block him from beginning the season with Bethancourt on the big league roster if necessary.
While Evan Gattis' defensive skills are still suspect, he would have to be considered the only other internal candidate right now. Whether or not he gets this role, Gattis has impressed with the bat enough for the Braves to keep an open mind about him possibly seeing some time in the outfield next year.
After the trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton voiced his displeasure. The Marlins look like they need pitching and the Braves have that. Could a trade with the Marlins for Stanton possibly be a good thing?
-- Douglas W., Fort Campbell, Ky.
With good reason, everybody wants to know about the possibility of Stanton and Heyward forming the most intimidating duo in Atlanta since the Road Warriors ruled the WCW. But there is probably a better chance you will see Hulk Hogan in a Braves uniform before you see Stanton.
In fact, there is little reason to believe Stanton will be traded. The only reason the Marlins should move him would be to get the kind of incredible return that the Braves would not be willing to provide any of their division rivals.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.