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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
B.J. Upton excited brother might become a Brave

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- B.J. Upton is excited about the possibility of a family reunion in the Braves' outfield.

Upton signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta in November. After hearing the Braves may be pursuing a trade with Arizona for his younger brother, Justin Upton, B.J. said on his Twitter account:

"Wow these (at)JUS10UP10 rumors have me excited. Please don't tease me like this... Would be a dream come true if it happens."

Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wednesday the team has payroll flexibility to make another move. Wren would not say if the team is pursuing Justin Upton.

"We continue to monitor what's available on the market," Wren said. "If we feel like there's something that can help us and get us over the top, we're going to continue to explore. We have flexibility in talent and prospects if we get in a trade situation and we have financial flexibility to add payroll. If those opportunities present themselves, we'll be in the mix."

The Upton brothers and right fielder Jason Heyward would give the Braves one of baseball's best outfields. Heyward won his first Gold Glove in 2012, when he hit .269 with 27 homers and 82 RBIs.

Justin Upton, 25, had his best year in 2011, when he hit .289 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs and finished fourth in the MVP voting. He hit .280 with 17 homers, 67 RBIs and 18 stolen bases last season.

Martin Prado is expected to move from left field to third place to replace Chipper Jones, who has retired.

At his first news conference after signing with the Braves, B.J. Upton said he and his brother want to play in the same outfield.

"That's been a big, big topic of conversation," said B.J. Upton.

The Diamondbacks had agreed to a deal to trade Justin Upton to Seattle earlier this month but the player vetoed it. Seattle was among four teams that Upton's contract that he could nix. Atlanta is not on that list.

Upton has been the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason. He is the most marketable of Arizona's glut of outfielders. The outfield became more crowded with the free agent signing of Cody Ross late last month.

Arizona also could clear room in the outfield by trading left fielder Jason Kubel, who reportedly has interest from Baltimore.

Justin Upton is due $38.5 million in the final three years of his contract, making him affordable under today's salary standards.

The Braves' current projected payroll is about $83 million -- about $10 million less than last year.

Justin Upton's agent, Larry Reynolds, declined comment.

If the Braves don't add another outfielder, Juan Francisco could play third base against right-handers with Prado in left field. Francisco struggles against left-handers, so Prado could moving to third base against left-handers while Reed Johnson starting in left field.

Other options in the outfield include Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer.

The most attractive option might be adding another Upton.

"If we can upgrade our offense then we're open to whatever," Wren said.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.