Braves fans hope former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B.J. Upton (2) starts scoring runs for Atlanta instead of against them as he did here in this May 18, 2012 game at Tropicana Field. (Photo: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)
Baseball's "Hot Stove Season" is already well under way, but many of the big-time signings, trades and other moves won't happen until the Winter Meetings start December 3.
By then, however, the Atlanta Braves may have a new starting center fielder and be focused on other needs.
Former Rays center fielder B.J. Upton could make a decision this week about where he signs, says Tampa Bay Times beat writer Mark Topkin.
A former #2 overall draft pick, Upton has become Atlanta's top free agent target, AJC staff writer Carroll Rogers reports, to replace Michael Bourn, who executives expect will cost too much to re-sign.
"And what's not to love?" Asks Andy Johnston of Fox Sports South. Upton has power, speed, youth and post-season experience. It doesn't hurt that he plays center and hit right-handed, which the team needs.
That's why the Bravos had Upton in for a visit November 15, even bringing in legendary manager Bobby Cox to grease the wheels, says MLB.com blogger Mark Bowman.
But every good story needs a villain. Enter: NL East division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, who are also courting the 28-year-old center fielder and are expected to be finalists in the fight for Upton's services. Jim Salisbury, writing for CSNPhilly.com, says the Phils met with him recently too.
ESPN's Jim Bowden, a former general manager, says he hears a third "mystery" team is in the mix with Atlanta and Philadelphia.
What does Upton have to say about all this?
Nothing much yet, except on Twitter, where he said he's "really blown away by the love other cities are showing me right now. Can't wait to see how this pans out."
As the Braves await Upton's decision, there's little else for fans to do except ponder the possibilities of an outfield anchored by a player whose name, B.J., stands for "Bossman Junior."