The Atlanta Braves landed their principal free-agent target Wednesday, reaching agreement with center fielder B.J. Upton on a five-year, $75.25 million contract, according to major-league sources.
Upton, 28, will replace Michael Bourn, another free agent, providing the Braves with elite defense in center field and a much-needed right-handed presence.
The Philadelphia Phillies, the other finalist for Upton, are unlikely to get shut out on a center fielder; Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino remain on the open market, and the trade market offers other possibilities.
Upton, the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, made his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays at age 19 and spent six full seasons with the club.
He batted .246 with a career-low .298 on-base percentage last season, but also hit 28 home runs, produced 78 RBI and stole 31 bases in 37 attempts.
The Braves viewed him as an important piece in helping balance their lineup, and also believe that he will hit for enough power to profile well at a corner-outfield position if he is unable to remain in center for the duration of his contract.