Brothers Upton could surpass the Waners

Until B.J. and Justin were united on Braves, Paul and Lloyd were clearly best brother combo ever on same team

If they hadn't been able to hit a baseball, Paul and Lloyd Waner probably would have made their living in cotton in their hometown, just east of Oklahoma City. But, man, could those guys hit.

Lloyd, known as Little Poison, hit .316 for his career while covering ground in center field and daring runners to challenge his arm. But he never quite could match his older brother, Paul, Big Poison, who hit .333 for his career while accumulating doubles and triples. He beat Lloyd to the Hall of Fame by 15 years.

The Waner brothers played 14 seasons together for the Pirates. The Yankees swept the Pirates in the 1927 World Series, Lloyd's rookie season, and they never got back before Frankie Frisch released Paul after he hit only .290 in 1940, which caused his hard living to be more of an issue than it had been. It was a hard landing, maybe, but it sure beat life in the Dust Bowl.

It's worth considering all the history that has been lived since the Waners shared the outfield at Forbes Field. In all that time, there never has been a pair of brothers on the same team as good as the Waners, and only one that even comes close.

Cal Ripken Jr. and his younger brother, Billy, played together for seven years with the Orioles. They actually had one season in which they combined to contribute more than the two Waners in their best year, in large part because they formed such a strong double play combination.

Cal (7.3) and Billy (3.9) produced an 11.2 WAR for the 1990 Orioles, in no small part because Cal had one of the greatest seasons ever by a shortstop, hitting 21 home runs while walking 16 more times than he struck out and making only three errors.

In their best year together, 1932, the Waners had a combined WAR of 8.7. The brothers Upton, B.J. and Justin, combined for 8.5 in 2011, with the older brother playing for the Rays and the younger for the Diamondbacks. Both helped their teams reach the playoffs.

Braves general manager Frank Wren believes they will be October fixtures the next three years, if not longer. He traded for Justin on Thursday after signing B.J. to a five-year contract on Nov. 28.

The brothers are thrilled to join Jason Heyward in an outfield that should be the best in the majors.

"Did this really just happen?'' B.J. texted after the seven-player deal was reported.

The odds were against two brothers this talented finding their way to the same team given how baseball tries to spread around talent. Justin was the first player selected in the 2005 draft, three years after B.J. had been the second player selected.

If they were going to team up, it seemed it would be later in their careers, when free agency might put them together. But it is happening with their average age 26.5 (B.J. is 28, Justin 25) — in other words, in the prime of their careers.

"It was a dream of ours to play together," Justin said on a conference call. "This is our time to take full advantage of it, play for a great organization with a lot of history. We're excited."

The Uptons are the only brothers who ever have had 20-20 seasons in the same year and that could happen on a regular basis while they're in Atlanta. However, the Braves gladly will sacrifice some stolen bases if Justin can join Heyward, first baseman Freddie Freeman and possibly second baseman Dan Uggla in delivering 25-plus home runs and 90-plus RBIs.

Wren said he has had Justin Upton in his sights since organization meetings in October. The team talked about its search for a player to replace Chipper Jones, and Wren said he wanted "someone who could hit third, could give us right-handed power, be a young dynamic middle of the order type hitter.''

Upton may have been considered too-cool-for-school at times with the Diamondbacks but there's no question he fits that bill. Wren hopes that playing together will "drive'' both Uptons.

Unforeseen consequence: Don't look for Commissioner Bud Selig and his MLB staff to help Scott Boras write a happy ending to Michael Bourn's unpleasant run at free agency. He and Kyle Lohse, another Boras client, both remain unsigned, and that's clearly because it would cost teams a first- or second-round pick to sign them.

The Braves and Cardinals made qualifying offers to Bourn and Lohse, vesting themselves for compensation under the new rules. The players could have returned to their teams for one year at about $13.3 million apiece but went into the market anyway, knowing their situations had become slightly more complicated.

The first 10 picks of the draft are protected, meaning that the worst teams in the game would lose a second-round pick, not a high first-rounder, if they signed a compensation player. Boras has been trying to make the 11th pick of the draft protected. It belongs to the Mets, who had the 10th worst record, but they were bumped down when the Pirates received an extra pick after failing to sign 2012 first-rounder Mark Appel, another first-rounder.

Few think the Mets would meet Boras' high asking price for Bourn, let alone give up a first- or second-rounder to get him. But the agent needs a team to bid against the Mariners, who have an interest in Bourn but apparently not at the price Boras suggested he could get for Bourn (five years, $75 million, according to multiple reports).

Players union director Michael Weiner and MLB's Rob Manfred negotiated the new system a year ago, but Weiner could file a grievance as those talks failed to address the possibility that a team could slide out of the top 10 and lose first-round protection.

The system clearly has worked against Bourn and Lohse.

"It's not an open market for these guys," Red Sox player rep Andrew Miller told the Providence Journal. "Supposedly, as of a couple of weeks ago, Lohse didn't have a real offer on the table, and he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Somebody has to offer him. It's just that the compensation is so screwed up. … It clearly means more fine-tuning."

Manfred isn't inclined to adjust the agreement after one offseason. But don't be surprised if some players take qualifying offers when they are made next year. All 10 players offered the one-year deals this winter passed on them.

Lining 'em up: MLB just awarded the 2015 All-Star Game to Cincinnati, and it appears it will be a long wait before that event comes back to Chicago. Selig has hinted that he would like the Cubs to have the event once Wrigley Field improvements are completed, which means no sooner than 2018 or '19 under the five-year plan being discussed.

The overload of strong NL candidates could keep the Cubs waiting until 2027 if Selig does not make an exception to the regular rotation of teams from the National and American leagues. He did that to give the event to New York in the last season at Yankee Stadium and has said he could consider it again under special circumstances.

This year's game will be played at the Mets' Citi Field and the 2014 game has been awarded to Target Field in Minneapolis. Baltimore, Toronto and Boston are front-runners for the next three AL slots (2016, '18 and '20). Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park is one of five NL stadiums that has not hosted an All-Star Game, so Washington, San Diego, Philadelphia and Miami seem the most likely pool for games in 2017, '19, '21 and '23.

Dodger Stadium, which hasn't hosted an All-Star Game since 1980, is being improved by Mark Walter's ownership group, which puts it in the mix. That takes the line of NL candidates through 2025, without the Cubs being shoe-horned into the mix. The best guess here is that MLB could look to Wrigley in '20 or '21.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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