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Braves replace Bourn with Upton

The Atlanta Braves still need a leadoff hitter, but they have their new center fielder.

The Braves and free agent B.J. Upton agreed on Wednesday to a five-year deal worth $75 million for the former Tampa Bay first-overall draft pick to replace Michael Bourn.

Upton, 28, is nearly two years younger than Bourn and he was considered a better value for a big-money long-term deal.

Upton has Bourn's speed and a lot more power. He hit 28 homers last season to go with 31 stolen bases and, as a right-handed batter, better balances the Braves' lineup.

Upton, though, isn't a fit to bat first in the order. That means general manager Frank Wren will seek a leadoff hitter when he looks for someone to take over in left field with Martin Prado expected to move to third base to replace the retired Chipper Jones.

A potential trade partner is Minnesota, which has Denard Span to exchange for pitching.

The Braves will surrender their first round draft pick to sign Upton, though that selection won't go directly to Tampa Bay. Upton declined a $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Rays, which means the Rays are now eligible to obtain a top pick in the 2013 draft.

Philadelphia was the Braves' main competition and the Phillies may now turn to Bourn. Washington, another National League East rival, also covets the former Braves center fielder.

Upton, who had earlier visited Philadelphia, met with general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and others, including former manager Bobby Cox, at Turner Field the week before Thanksgiving.

Upton tweeted the night of his Atlanta visit, "I'm really blown away by the love other cities are showing me right now. Can't wait to see how this pans out."

"This time of year you've got a lot of lines in the water," Wren said afterward. "You're not sure which fish you're going to catch. So you have to make sure that you have enough lines out there that you catch a fish."

Bourn tailed off at the plate in the second half of last season, but still hit .274 with 42 stolen bases. He turns 30 on Dec. 27.

Upton hit .246 last season for the Tampa Bay and struck out 169 times. Bourn had 155 strikeouts for the Braves.