The BJ Upton Conundrum


Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton (2) bats in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

$75.25 million.


The first number is the amount of money BJ Upton is owned over the next five years to play baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

The second number (I suppose it is numbers) is what BJ has currently produced for the Braves on the offensive side this season. Over 42 games, the elder Upton has the second lowest batting average in baseball—behind Ike Davis—the seventh lowest on-base percentage, and the third lowest slugging percentage in baseball.

Just to give you an idea of how truly bad Upton has been at the plate so far, I’d like to point out that the perpetually soft-hitting Juan Pierre currently has a better mark in slugging percentage than BJ. For reference, Juan Pierre has hit a grand total of 18 homeruns in his entire career.

In basically every category you can imagine, Upton has been terrible, and he is currently sitting with a 0.0 WAR, which basically means we are paying him $12.45 million dollars to produce at the same rate as whoever we have playing in Gwinnett.

Obviously, that is not what the Braves have paid him to do, and clearly, he is going to have to pick up the slack. Fortunately for Atlanta, the team has done quite well despite his struggles, but it will become very difficult for the team in the future to have to the highest-paid players on the team—Upton and Uggla—performing so poorly. This is especially true when you consider the Braves terrible TV contract, and how much young talent we are going to have to start locking up.

So, is there any hope left for BJ Upton? Well, probably. It’s only been a quarter of the season and Adam Dunn had one of the worst seasons in major league history before turning right back around and hitting 41 home runs in the following campaign. Dunn and Upton are also comparable because of the similar situations they faced. Dunn left the Nationals and signed a large contract with the Chicago White Sox and played terribly. Whether this was because of the pressures of the money or simply because he changed leagues, we still don’t know. We do know that BJ Upton is going through the exact same situation.

Fortunately for the Braves, the fans, and BJ himself, there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on him to produce—well, other than his massive contract, I mean. The team has a great lineup with the core of Heyward/Justin/Freeman/McCann hitting on all cylinders. With those guys performing the team will be okay, regardless of whether BJ continues to disappoint or not. So hopefully, BJ will be able to simply focus on baseball, his swing, and the opposing pitchers.

The past series against the Minnesota Twins was a positive for him. He managed 3 hits—including a home run—during the series with all of them coming in the last two games. He also managed to limit himself to just two strike outs while walking once. I know these aren’t great stats to seem impressed with but hey, “baby steps” applies in this situation. You could also say “Hey, Carlos, it was against the TWINS,” to which I would reply with, “Yeah… very small baby steps…”

I still have hope that BJ will be able to turn things around and produce for Atlanta, but if he doesn’t, at least we have his younger brother around.

Come on guys, it’s only $75.25 million dollars.