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Inbox: Who will patrol center in 2013?

Inbox: Who will patrol center for Braves in '13?

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Inbox: Who will patrol center in 2013?
Who do you see as the Braves' best option to play center field? Will they sign a top center fielder or take a risk on someone else?
-- Ritchie C., Monroe, La.

The best option would seemingly be a healthy, affordable and committed Josh Hamilton. But there are legitimate concerns about Hamilton's cost and history, so the best option is once again not the same as the most likely option.

Say what you want about the fact that Hamilton reportedly wants a seven-year, $175 million contract. We're still in the first week of November. 'Tis the season to be somewhat shocked by the high-end dollars agents are seeking during the early portion of the negotiating process.

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Some have suggested Michael Bourn will also be seeking a $100 million payday. It seems reasonable to think his asking price would be closer to a five-year, $80 million deal.

Either way, I can't see the Braves giving Bourn a contract that would include anything close to a $15 million annual salary. It's quite risky to make this commitment to a speed guy who will be north of 30 years old throughout the entirety of a contract that will almost definitely exceed three years.

One thing Bourn has going for him is that there are very few true leadoff hitters in the game. At the same time, prototypical leadoff hitters are not supposed to come close to striking out 155 times, like Bourn did this past season.

But agent Scott Boras will likely get Bourn the deal he is seeking, with the Nationals and Phillies as potential takers. When Derek Lowe hit the free-agent market at 35 years old after the 2008 season, he was furious that Boras wanted to ask teams for more than three years. A few months later, Lowe signed his four-year, $60 million deal in Atlanta.

With the possibility that the Braves will acquire two outfielders this winter and move Martin Prado to third base, the club will be both aggressive and wise with the $25 million to $30 million it has to spend.

Just a hunch, the Braves will pass on the $20 million-plus salary Hamilton will get and the opportunity to bring Bourn back to Atlanta. It seems more likely that they could end up signing B.J. Upton, who set himself up for a nice payday after hitting .246 with 28 home runs and 31 stolen bases with the Rays this past season.

Upton struck out 169 times and he does not fill the Braves' need for a leadoff hitter. But he is two years younger than Bourn and quite capable of forming a power-speed combo with Jason Heyward for a few years.

With the talk of selling a pitcher or two, who are some possible trade partners and what would be some potential returns?
-- Drew T., Charleston, S.C.

To get Arizona's Justin Upton or a player of his caliber, the Braves would have to part ways with either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. With J.R. Graham making an impressive rise through the Minor League system and Sean Gilmartin waiting in the wings, the Braves have enough depth to trade either Teheran or Delgado if necessary.

If the Braves are not able to get a significant return for either Teheran or Delgado, it would provide even more reason to deal Tommy Hanson. There likely would not be a great return for Hanson. But at the same time, this might be a case where the team should get what it can now for a pitcher who stood as the game's top pitching prospect just three years ago.

How did Joey Terdoslavich look this past season? If he is not yet ready, who are the top contenders to replace Chipper Jones at third base?
-- Joe B., Blacksburg, Va.

After being overmatched playing third base for Triple-A Gwinnett, Terdoslavich found some comfort while primarily playing first base for Double-A Mississippi. In other words, the idea of him serving as Jones' potential replacement may have been a little premature.

Like Terdoslavich, Edward Salcedo has created doubts about his future at third base, though it might be too early to determine his future in the outfield.

So for now, the safest prediction is that the Braves will position Prado at third base next year and quite possibly for at least a few of the years that follow.

Which Braves player do you think is most likely to get a long-term extension this offseason: Heyward, Kris Medlen, Freddie Freeman or Prado?
-- Timmy R., Florence, Ala.

Keeping it simply at a multiyear extension, I'd have to say Prado is the best candidate among this group. Prado will likely make somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 million as he enters his final arbitration-eligible season next year.

As valuable as Prado has been, his average annual salary is not going to go much higher than this figure. He has a desire to stay in Atlanta and the Braves have reason to keep him around, which certainly seems like a fit for a three-year deal worth a little north of $20 million.

It might be enticing to sign Medlen to a multiyear deal, should the Braves base this offer off what was seen in the season's final two months. From Medlen's perspective, there would likely be a confidence that he would pitch well enough to earn more through arbitration the next couple of years.

The same could be said of the Twin Towers. Heyward would likely believe he could build on this past season's success and earn more through arbitration. As for Freeman, he could be of the mindset that he has not yet been consistent enough to set a fair value for himself, even before he enters arbitration.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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