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Reports: Ex-Rays CF B.J. Upton heading to Atlanta

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 02:33 AM

B.J. Upton changed the avatar on his Twitter account late Wednesday afternoon to the familiar script "A" that belongs to the Atlanta Braves. The move spoke volumes and supported the multiple reports that the center fielder had, indeed, agreed to a contract with Atlanta.

The deal, reported to be $75.25 million over five years, is the largest free-agent contract awarded by the Braves, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The contract was pending a physical.

The former Rays center fielder turned down a $13.3 million, one-year qualifying offer from the Rays in October because he wanted a more lucrative long-term deal. He will receive an average of $15.05 million a year over the life of the contract.

As compensation, the Rays will receive a sandwich pick in June's draft that will come between the first and second rounds.

Upton will replace Michael Bourn in center field for the Braves and provide some pop from the right side of the plate to complement the Braves' left-handed-hitting right fielder Jason Heyward.

The Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies were the two teams that showed the most interest in Upton this month, and he visited both cities.

Given their payroll constraints, the Rays accepted the fact they couldn't compete with Upton on the open market, just as they had with left fielder Carl Crawford after the 2010 season. The qualifying offer was made to ensure they received the compensation draft pick.

Rays fans felt the same, showering Upton with two standing ovations during the final night of the season. Upton was near tears after the game when speaking about the show of support from the fans at Tropicana Field.

Upton, the only center fielder in the major leagues to play at least 144 games each year over the past five seasons, was the longest-tenured Ray at season's end, edging pitcher James Shields by one day of major league service time – 6 years and 126 days to 6 years, 125 days.

The second overall pick in the June 2002 draft, Upton was expected to be the Rays' shortstop of the future. He reached the big leagues in 2004 but took some time before finding a home in the field. He moved to third base and then second before replacing Rocco Baldelli in center field midway through the 2007 season.

Upton, who turned 28 on Aug. 21, became the eighth player to hit 100 home runs and steal at least 200 bases before his 28th birthday. He and his younger brother Justin, an outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, both hit their 100th career home runs Aug. 3, making them the sixth pair of brothers in major league history to hit at least 100 home runs.

Upton and Evan Longoria are the only players in team history to play in all 25 of the Rays' postseason games. Upton hit seven home runs and drove in 16 runs during the 16 postseason games in 2008 as he helped the Rays reach the World Series.

While his on-base percentage dipped to a career-low .298 in 2012, Upton hit a career-high 28 home runs, drove in 78 runs and stole 31 bases despite missing the first 13 games with lower back soreness, the result of a collision with left fielder Desmond Jennings during a spring training game.

His 21 home runs and 40 extra-base hits after the All-Star break were tied for third-most in the major leagues.

Upton leaves the Rays as the franchise's all-time leader in walks (430) and strikeouts (1,020).

While not a fan of Tropicana Field's AstroTurf, Upton always professed his love for playing in Tampa Bay and hoped to help the Rays win a World Series. He will have that chance in Atlanta while playing on the grass at Turner Field.

 

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