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David O'BrienDavid O'Brien

Expect B.J. Upton trade talks to be revisited

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  NEW YORK – The Braves’ B.J. Upton-Edwin Jackson talks from a month ago with the Cubs are still getting a lot of play nationally. When this happens, it’s usually because someone from one or both teams continues to leak info in order keep the story to alive for one or more reasons: To show the fan base they’re trying, for example.

Or as a last-ditch effort to light a fire under a particular player.

The Braves ate the remaining $20 million and 1 1/2 seasons left on the contract of Dan Uggla (right). They will try to trade disappointing B.J. Upton (left) this winter with three years left on his huge contract.

The Braves ate the remaining $20 million and 1 1/2 seasons left on the contract of Dan Uggla (right). They will try to trade disappointing B.J. Upton (left) this winter with three years left on his huge contract.

Well, in the case of Upton-Jackson, the principles of the deal that was discussed before the July 31 trade deadline would’ve involved the Braves and Cubs swapping terrible contracts and hoping a change of scenery would help the players involved. Or at least provide a new honeymoon period wherein their fans would give it some time before booing the new guy.

Depending upon which report you believe, the Braves might’ve also had to include a pitcher — Mike Minor or Ervin Santana have been mentioned in some reports, though I don’t know if they were accurate – in the deal, and/or paid a lot of what Upton is still owed to balance out the money involved.

What I’m told is this: The Braves would never have agreed to pay a ton of what Upton is still owed plus sent a good pitcher to the Cubs in the deal. They might have done one or the other, but not both.

Jackson has become a fairly awful pitcher owed about $26 million over the next two seasons ($11 million salary each season, plus prorated portion of $8 million signing bonus he got in his four-year, $52 million contract). He was 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA in his first season with the Cubs in 2014, leading the NL in losses, and he’s 6-14 with a – gulp — 6.09 ERA in 25 starts this season, once again leading the league in losses.

Upton will be owed about $47 million during 2015-2017 in the last three seasons of his five-year, $75.25 million contract. You’re familiar with his work.

This is what I’m told about where it stands going forward: The Braves will try to trade Upton this offseason – personally, I think it’s just about a fait accompli that he’s gone before spring training – and that they might do it by including Minor in a package. In other words, they’d tell a team, you can have three years of contractual control of Minor before free agency, but you’re going to have to take B.J. Upton in the deal. It’s uncertain if the Braves ultimately would part with Minor, a quality lefty with the potential for growth, who has shown again in recent starts how effective he can be after struggling for much of the season to regain his form following medical issues in the winter and spring.

The Braves would surely have to take back a bad contract such as Jackson in such an exchange, but Atlanta would also probably ask that a decent prospect be included from the other team.

Gattis’ future: When Evan Gattis hit a ninth-inning homer Sunday at Cincinnati, he became just the second catcher in the nearly century-and-a-half franchise history to hit at least 20 homers in each of his first two seasons, joining Earl Williams (1971-72).

Gattis, who is 27, had 21 homers in 354 at-bats as a rookie in 2013 and has 20 homers  in 323 at-bats this season. That’s 41 homers (and 115 RBis) in his first 677 at-bats in the majors, folks. And that’s a lot.

So, what does the future hold for El Oso Blanco? As much as a lot of Braves fans don’t want to hear it, there’s at least a pretty good chance he could be traded this winter.

It’s not that the Braves don’t love his big-power bat, because they do. It’s that they have young, cannon-armed Christian Bethancourt waiting in the wings, ready to shut down opponents’ running games and play superb defense, two areas that are not Gattis’ strong suits. And they’re not sure how long Gattis’ 250-pound body can hold up to the rigors of catching.

The presence of Bethancourt, plus the undeniable trade value that Gattis will have, might make it too tempting for the Braves to pass up a trade this winter, while Gattis is healthy and other teams, American League teams in particular, drool over the prospect of adding his big bat to their lineup.

I’d hate to see Gattis go. Great dude, great story. But he’s got American League written all over him. He could be a primary DH and part-time catcher in the AL and hit 35-40 homers in 500-600 at-bats. And the Braves should be able to get a relative king’s ransom for him in a trade, more than they’ve gotten back for any player in quite some time.

On the other hand, the Braves might also decide that huge (and affordable) right-handed power is just too much to let get away. The Braves have at least discussed e moving Gattis back to left field in the future, in which case they’d bite the bullet defensively and hope he could improve with more experience there.

By the way, besides Williams and Gattis, five other Braves (regardless of position) have hit 20 or more homers in each of their first two seasons: Eddie Mathews (1952-53), Bob Horner (1978-79), David Justice (1990-91) and Freddie Freeman (2011-12).

Pretty decent company he’s in, huh?

 Braves since break:  The Braves’ .242 batting average since the All-Star break is fourth-lowest in NL, ahead of Dbacks, Reds and Mets, and Atlanta is tied for fourth-fewest runs (135). The Braves have the third-most strikeouts (313) since the break, more than every NL team except the Marlins (323) and Cubs (342).

Meanwhile, Braves pitchers have the third-best ERA (3.23) in the league since the break, but Atlanta is the only NL team in the top seven in ERA to have a losing record (16-20) since the break. Of  the  two teams with better ERAs than the Braves since the break, the Nationals (3.13 ERA) are 24-13 and the Brewers (3.19) are 20-15.

The Braves have the same record as the Mets (16-20) since the break.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’ll be Alex Wood (9-9, 3.05) facing Mets righty Dillon Gee (4-6, 3.84) in the series opener, two pitchers who’ve had very dissimilar performances in recent weeks.

Alex Wood has excelled since the Braves moved him back to the starting rotation. The lefty starts Tuesday night's series opener against the  Mets.

Alex Wood has excelled since the Braves moved him back to the starting rotation. The lefty starts Tuesday night’s series opener against the Mets.

Wood is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA and .200 opponents’ average in his past five starts, including 0-1 in three road starts despite a 1.80 ERA and .208 OA. He has allowed seven runs (four earned) and one homer in 20 innings over those three road starts, but the Braves scored one, one and two runs while he was in those games.

The young lefty is 0-1 with a 4.19 ERA in four starts against the Mets, including three in 2013. Wood has no decisions and a 3.00 ERA in his past two starts against them, and the Braves scored one run in the six innings that he pitched in each of those games.

In his only game against the Mets this season, Wood allowed six hits, three runs and one walk with seven strikeouts, that in a June 30 Braves home win.

There no long appears to be any question – if there every was, really — that Wood is in the role for which he’s best suited: He has a 2.83 ERA and .238 opponents’ average in 114 2/3 innings (18 games) as a starter this season, compared to a 4.70 ERA and .302 OA in 15 1/3 innings as a reliever.

Daniel Murphy is 5-for-11 against Wood,  and Curtis Granderson is 1-for-3 with a homer. Juan Lagares is 5-for-11 with a homer and four RBIs in the Mets’ past three games, but he’s just 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in his career against Wood.

Wood’s counterpart Gee is 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in his past seven starts. He has a .235 opponents’ average in that span, but also allowed 17 walks and eight homers in 41 innings. Gee gave up four earned runs or more in five of those seven starts, including eight hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings of most recent start Tuesday at Oakland. He’ll be pitching tonight on two extra days of rest.

Here’s the kind of extreme split you don’t often see this late in a season: Gee is 1-6 with a 5.10 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 10 night games (60 innings), compared to 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA in six day games (40 2/3 innings)

The right-hander has always been tough on the Braves. He’s 5-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 13 career starts against them, including 2-1 with a stingy 1.23 ERA and .167 opponents’ average in his past four.

After allowing eight hits and five runs in five innings of a June 2013 start against the Braves,  Gee has allowed just 17 hits, four earned runs and one homer in 29 1/3 innings over his past four starts against them. In a July 9 win against them at Citi Field, he limited the Bravos to six hits and one run in seven innings.

Against Gee, Jason Heyward is 8-for-24 with a homer and six walks (.484 OBP), Freddie Freeman is 6-for-26 with a homer, Justin Upton is 5-for-24 with a homer, Tommy La Stella is 2-for-3, and Emilio Bonifacio is 3-for-5. Meanwhile, Evan Gattis is 1-for-12 with four strikeouts against the right-hander.

Freeman vs. Mets:  The Mets are never pleased to see Freddie Freeman. The first baseman has hit .392 (20-for-51) with seven extra-base hits (one homer) and 13 RBIs  in 13 games against them this season, with a .458 OBP and .588 slugging percentage. A continuance of the damage he’s done against them almost since the outset of his career.

In his past 48 games against the Mets, Freeman has hit .348 with 16 doubles, 12 homers, 48 RBIs, a .412 OBP and .626 slugging percentage.

The Braves hope facing them again brings out his usual performance vs. the Metropolitans.  Freeman ranks among NL leaders with a .346 average in August, but is 2-for-14 with no extra-base hits or RBIs and seven strikeouts in his past four games, including three hitless games. He does have a walk in each of those games and a .400 OBP in that span.

  • Etc.

Tommy La Stella is 4-for-31 (.129) with one walk and a .156 OBP in his past 10 games, after going 36-for-118 (.305) with 13 walks and a .374 OBP in 31 games from July 4 through Aug. 9….

Justin Upton is 17-for-54 (.315) with three homers and seven RBIs in 13 games against the Mets this season….

The Braves are 2-3 with a 1.77 ERA in their past five games.  They’ve hit .212 and scored 16 runs in that span, with half the runs coming in one game….

In close-and-late situations, Braves hitters have batted .242 with a .309 OBP and 83 RBIs in 821 at-bats. In those same situations, Braves opponents have hit .243 with a .319 OBP and 99 RBIs in 869 at-bats….

Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson is just 8-for-52 (.154) in 13 games against the Braves this season, but half of his hits against them have been home runs….

   Justin Upton is second in the NL with 23 RBIs in August, while B.J. Upton has a league-worst .119 average (7-for-59) for the month. (La Stella has the NL’s fifth-lowest average at .177 for the month.)

• I saw Simone Felice (of the Felice Brothers) do a solo gig last night at City Winery here in NYC. Really great show.  He did solo stuff and his best stuff from his  The Duke & The King side band, including this, one of my favorite songs in the past decade or so. Here’s the studio version, which some fan decided to set to footage of Michael Jackson (it actually works well) and here’s a live version.

“IF YOU EVER GET FAMOUS” by Simone Felice

Simone Felice

Simone Felice

If you ever get famous
Don’t forget about me
I hope it’s everything that you
Thought it would be

If you ever get famous
Don’t forget about her
She was there boy before
Anybody cared who you were
You better remember

If you ever get famous
I say a prayer for your heart
You keep your eyes open wide and
Beware the sharks
Cause they come out in the dark

If you ever get famous
Show your face now and then
Cause all our days are so many
Ways in the wind
And we can’t get them back again

So many days in the week
Let them roll on by
So many days in the week
Roll on, roll on, roll on
So many days in the week
Let them roll on by

If you ever get famous
In your white limosine
It’s a rainy night and your
Headlights hit the water in the streets
And the rain beats down

And keep an eye on the driver
Cause as the highway unwinds,
Boy, the way home fades and can
Be so hard to find
Oh my oh my, oh my

So many days in the week
You keep on running round
So many days in the week
You’ve been running all your life
So many days in the week
In the hope to fnid what you’re looking for
So many days

If you ever get famous
Don’t forget about me
I hope it’s everything that you
Thought it would be

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