What is the possibility that the Braves could trade for Justin Upton and then persuade B.J. Upton to sign a contract?
-- Milton G., Snellville, Ga.
If asked to rank which available outfielders would best fit the Braves, I'd fill the top two spots with the Uptons and then place Nick Swisher a distant third. The likes of Torii Hunter, Angel Pagan, Shane Victorino -- they would not have the potential impact of the aforementioned outfielders. As for Josh Hamilton, the Braves do not have the funds to shop on that aisle.
Some will argue whether Justin Upton is worth the $38.5 million he will make over the next three years. Others will be concerned about B.J. Upton's inconsistencies and strikeout totals. And others will wonder how much Swisher would miss Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field.
As Braves general manager Frank Wren weighs the many variables, there is certainly reason for him to be creative with the hopes of completing a trade that benefits the always-complicated roster reconstruction process. But I'd have to say the odds are quite slim that Wren would be able to land both Upton brothers.
By next year, their combined annual cost could be in the neighborhood of $30 million, which would be approximately one-third of this year's payroll. That's not exactly a position the Braves can put themselves in while uncertain of just how much Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel could each receive via arbitration after the 2013 season.
In exchange for Justin Upton, the D-backs are looking for a significant return that includes Major League-ready talent and preferably either a third baseman or shortstop. The Rangers and Rays stand as the current favorites.
If the Braves end up with Upton, it will likely be because the D-backs determine that they have no other choice but to trade the 25-year-old outfielder who is certainly not happy that his name is being bantered around on the trade market for the second time this year.
It will be interesting to follow the developments involving B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn, a pair of free-agent outfielders who will be courted by some of the same teams. While Bourn has established his value with his legs, Upton provides the coveted power/speed combination that the Braves already have with Heyward.
Some have suggested that Upton is more attractive because he is two years younger and it is easier to project his capabilities beyond his 30th birthday. Others, including myself, have suggested that he will be a cheaper option than Bourn.
But as Upton's representatives prepare to hit the market, they are happy to talk about the fact that their client is two years younger than Bourn and capable of providing both power and speed. In other words, they are currently seeking a contract that will at least be on par with what Bourn receives.
Why don't the Braves move Heyward to center field? He has proven that he can play there and had the National League's best zone rating.
-- Jameson C., Pleasant Grove, Utah
This question was raised a few times during the regular season and again during the morning following the NL Wild Card playoff game. Quite simply, the Braves are among the many who believe Heyward is the game's top right fielder. While he has shown he is capable of handling the center-field duties, he certainly would not be regarded as the game's premier center fielder if he moved to that position.
The Braves are also not interested in asking Heyward to escape the comfort zone that he found this year while living up to his tremendous offensive potential.
While the Braves have never cited any physical concerns, there is no doubt that playing center field over the course of an entire season could take a greater toll on the body. Still just 23 years old, Heyward is certainly capable of handling the strain. But when dealing with a player who is viewed as a potential long-term asset, teams have to at least weigh this factor.
How is the Braves' bullpen shaping up for next season?
-- Kenny G., Nashville, Tenn.
The Braves have the luxury of entering this offseason knowing that they really do not have to acquire any pitchers. They have plenty of depth in their rotation and their bullpen will look much like it did the past two years.
Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters will once again serve as the primary setup men for Kimbrel. Cristhian Martinez and Luis Avilan will also likely return. While Cory Gearrin will have to compete for a spot, he showed enough down the stretch to believe he could come to Spring Training as a favorite to earn an Opening Day roster spot.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Peter Moylan, who could earn approximately $800,000 during his final arbitration-eligible season. He remains one of the team's most popular players. If Moylan is healthy, there's certainly reason to think he would be in Atlanta again next year.
What was the real reason that both Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens lost velocity on their fastball?
-- Dwain M., Winston Salem, N.C.
The underlying problem for both pitchers was health. When Hanson's velocity began to dip a few years ago, he began experiencing some of his back/shoulder discomfort. As for Jurrjens, his average fastball velocity dipped slightly in 2009 and then really decreased after his right knee became a problem in September 2010.
Jurrjens will likely have to sign a Minor League contract with the hopes of proving to a team that his knee is healthy next year. As for Hanson, his future is a little more uncertain. It appears he will either be traded this winter or begin the 2013 season as Atlanta's fifth starter.
Some members of the Braves' organization were pleased to see Hanson begin to run more between starts after his good friend Medlen joined the rotation. The hope is that the increased leg strength will help him regain at least a portion of the lost velocity.