In a market flush with center field talent, it's Upton who seems to be getting the most attention. Image: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

B.J. Upton May Wind Up at Center of Bidding War

The Atlanta Braves still have a hole to fill in center field and their top target to do so seems to be former Tampa Bay Ray B.J. Upton.

The Braves are still in the mix to re-sign Michael Bourn, but his price tag is thought to be considerably higher than that of Upton. Angel Pagan remains an option, as does Josh Hamilton, though the Braves don’t consider themselves players for Hamilton at this point.

Atlanta is just one of the clubs hot for Upton, who is rumored to be meeting with the Giants at some point this week. Upton has also visited Philadelphia and the Phillies are thought to view Upton as their top choice. Upton has also been mentioned as a fit in TTexas should the Rangers be unable to keep Hamilton.

Washington is also looking at center fielders in case they cannot re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche, but Upton’s right handed bat wouldn’t be the best fit for a heavily right handed Nats lineup.

The center field shuffle may also feature Shane Victorino, who has drawn interest from as many as a dozen clubs so far. Victorino is widely considered the fifth-best option on the free agent market this year, which shows how deep the pool of center fielders is. Ordinarily, someone in Victorino’s position may have to wait until late in the Winter to sign, but he’s been drawing interest from teams like Cleveland that wouldn’t be involved in the bidding for any of the bigger names this year. If the switch-hitter finds a deal he likes – and he’s looking for a multi-year offer – he may jump at the chance to find regular work quickly.

The Giants are still considered to be the front-runner to keep Pagan, but they’ve already met with Bourn and will meet with Upton. Pagan figures to be the least expensive of the bunch and he’s a known commodity in the San Francisco clubhouse, which makes him their top choice.

Hamilton is a wild card here both because he’s probably a left fielder more than a center fielder at this point and because his contract is likely to reach $25 million per year and that’s enough to price him out of the conversation for most clubs. If he signs with someone like Boston, for example, as a left fielder, that opens up Texas as a team that now enters the fray for Upton or Bourn.

Bourn’s market is less defined than Upton’s so far. He’s a dynamic talent and considered a better all-around player to Upton, but he’s also a few years older and relies on speed more than Upton does. He’s been rumored to be seeking five years and $100 million while Upton’s price range likely lands closer to five years and $75-85 million.

The Braves will wind up signing one of the two, you’d have to figure, but it’s interesting that they seem to prefer Upton to the man who has patrolled center for the past couple of years at Turner Field. The Rangers have also been mentioned more often in connection with Upton and only the Nationals seem to be favoring Bourn between the two.

Bourn signing a deal with Washington would be the best thing that could happen for Upton’s free agency, as then he could sit back and have his choice between as many as three high-revenue club bidding against each other for his services.

If things break just right, Upton could be the biggest winner of a deep and talented center field pool.

Tags: Angel Pagan Atlanta Braves B.J. Upton Braves Rumors Josh Hamilton Michael Bourn MLB Rumors Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Rumors

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