On Sunday Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported that the Atlanta Braves were kicking the tires on the idea of promoting catching prospect Christian Bethancourt from Triple-A Gwinnett and moving Evan Gattis to left field.
The ramifications of this move would be that B.J. Upton and his $75 million contract would be on the bench as Justin Upton would move to right field and Jason Heyward would take over in center. Combine B.J. Upton’s $13.45 million salary with Dan Uggla’s $13 million salary and the Braves could be looking at a $26.45 million bill for a pair of pinch-hitters.
Upton is hitting .213 with an on-base percentage of .284 so far this season. He has struck out a team-high 85 times, while walking just 26.
Bethancourt, who would be a defensive upgrade behind the plate from Gattis, is hitting .278 with three home runs and 30 RBI in 55 games this year. In his last 10 games he has hit .366 with a homer and seven RBI.
As abysmal as Upton has been at the plate during his tenure in Atlanta Bowman wrote, and I agree wholeheartedly, that his defense lately may be what has accelerated this discussion. Ironically on Sunday he had a pair of nice catches against the Angels, but this season he has seemed lackadaisical in center, and other teams have noticed.
With Upton playing deep in center, anything that falls in front of him has been worth an extra base this season. Opposing runners are constantly stretching bloop singles into bloop doubles.
The only real negative to his move would be the clubhouse dynamic of it. Uggla has been a consummate professional since losing his starting job at second base to Triple-A call-up Tommy La Stella. I’m not sure Upton would react the same. There’s also the dynamic of how it could affect baby brother Justin’s attitude.
Still after 193 games B.J. Upton hasn’t even been close to worth what the Braves paid him, and as his defense deteriorates it’s time for another Baby Brave to get his shot at keeping Atlanta on top of the National League East.