Tigers to sign Upton to six-year, $132.75M deal

Once again, the Tigers have pounced on a January deal. After weeks of insisting they didn’t have the room for a long-term contract with a prominent free-agent outfielder, they spent Monday coming to terms with slugger Justin Upton on a six-year contract worth $132.75 million, a source told MLB.com.

The deal, first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, is pending a physical and includes a player opt-out after the second season. The Tigers have not yet confirmed the agreement; an announcement could come as soon as Wednesday.

The right-handed-hitting Upton, one of the biggest names in free agency this offseason, batted .251/.336/.454 last year. His youth made the 28-year-old a prime candidate for a long-term deal, but the longer the free-agent outfielder market lingered, the further that seemed to fall into question. Although many teams were tied to Upton, many were believed to be seeking a short-term contract.

Upton’s agent, Larry Reynolds, released a statement a week and a half ago saying his client was targeting a long-term contract, a proclamation that seemed to rule out the Tigers. Though owner Mike Ilitch said in November that he didn’t care about the money in his long-running pursuit of a World Series title, general manager Al Avila told a Detroit radio station last month that a long-term deal with an outfielder like Upton or Yoenis Cespedes could turn their payroll situation “pretty ugly.”

The Tigers were believed to be focused on a short-term deal until last week, when Ilitch supposedly gave the go-ahead to explore long-term contract talks. From there the deal came together over the past couple days, with Avila and manager Brad Ausmus traveling to Arizona to talk with Upton in person. Former Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who has the same agent and has known Upton since he was in high school, also put in a good word about his experience in Detroit and what to expect playing in the Motor City.

The Tigers’ other advantage was structural. Upton, who turned down the Padres’ qualifying offer at the start of the offseason, is tied to Draft-pick compensation, but Detroit has a protected first-round pick and already ceded its second-rounder to sign Jordan Zimmermann. That means the Tigers will only need to sacrifice a third-round pick to sign Upton, and will get at least his age-28 and 29 seasons in return. If Upton plays out the full six-year deal, he’d still hit free agency at the relatively young age of 34.

The deal, worth a straight $22.125 million per season, will put the Tigers into luxury-tax territory for 2016, possibly beyond, depending on the future threshold under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Detroit crossed the threshold in 2008 but will pay the first-time rate of 17.5 percent since it was under a previous CBA.

That’s a major impact on a Midwestern market. On the field, however, Upton’s impact figures to be great for a team that had been projected to go into Spring Training with a mix of Tyler Collins and Anthony Gose in left. While Upton tilts the Tigers lineup further right-handed, his career .805 OPS against right-handed pitching — including .848 last year — easily outpaces both. All but 10 of his 68 walks last year came from right-handed hurlers.

Upton figures to slot into the middle of a batting order that already includes Miguel Cabrera and Martinez. Upton is a reliable presence, having played at least 149 games in each of the past five seasons, and is a serious power threat with five seasons of 25-plus home runs.

Upton joins a long line of January deals that helped build a contender in Detroit, following in the footsteps of Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Jose Valverde, Johnny Damon and Prince Fielder. Only Fielder received a larger contract than Upton, whose contract ranks as the third-largest for a position player in franchise history behind Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

22 Comments

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He was the best option available : young, with power.

He is a impact purchase. Justin, welcome to the Tigers! Thanks Mr I.

Who do they drop from the 40 man?

News for me:
“Detroit has the most strikeout-suppressing environment” Sullivan. Good lighting? CF background uniform? Symmetric lines?
BTW: Upton 158 SO in 2015/JD 178. OBP career/ 2015:352/336 JD 344/327. For the complains about his SO tendencies. Not to mention the replaced Gose 311/321 and his 145 without power

Sometimes I think park factors get overemphasized compared to the players who play in them. This might be one of those cases. Comerica Park became hitter-friendly around the time the Tigers brought in hitters like Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. It became strikeout-suppressing with Cabrera and Victor Martinez in it.

You can call him bold ( or reckless) but not cheap:
“The Tigers will be the third team to sign multiple free agents to $100 million contracts in the same offseason” ESPN
They are 1 MM shy from being the top spender during the off-season

It turns out Henning and Heyman(?) were right in predicting the Tigers would exceed the luxury tax level with spending at $200M or better. In fact, the AAV with benefits included is closer to $210M. Ilitch, as one of the richest men in America, is looking to win now. In the process, he proved to be a man of his word. Kudos to him.

I guess this answers everyone’s questions.

believe this is the first deal Tigers have struck where that includes the ‘opt-out.’ the commissioner has gone on record wondering why clubs are agreeing to it. hopefully it will work out for both sides with Tigers getting 2 great seasons and Upton another huge payday.
.
wondering if Ausmus reached out to Kirk Gibson about Upton. Gibson managed him in Arizona and was still there when they traded Upton away. there were rumors then that Upton was not Gibson’s type of player, whatever that means.

You get a contract year from the player who want to opt-out .
The first team gets the good years and a second team get the probable down years of an older player.
It is the player who is betting that he will get a better contract

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interesting! time for me to get excited about the upcoming season!!

Wonder what this means to JD’s potential contract? As ElT states hopefully the Tigers get 2 very good years and then Moya, Collins or another prospect is ready for 2018.
If I’m in the Tigers minor league farm system and an OF, you gotta wonder when/if you will make it to the Bigs with this team?

I thought the club as constructed before the trade would be able to compete if healthy, but certainly glad to add Upton to the mix. That’s going to make the Tigers the favorites again, but it still hinges on team health.
(off topic) The downer of the day was hearing of the demise of Royal Oak’s Glenn Frey. I decided to do a piano version of “Desperado” as a tribute but it got my wife all tearful. Probably shouldn’t have done that.

Hey Rich, so there’s a new kid in town. Yeah, I saw the Eagles a few years ago in Grand Rapids. Dan, where is our lefty power bat going to come from

DD, I think they must be counting on Moya learning to play at a MLB level. Too bad he couldn’t play CF though if that were the case! At any rate he is a year away and growing older by the day.

Maybe AA is counting on Moya being ready. Should have signed in as DB, not DD.

Has there been any word yet on who gets bumped off the 40-man roster to make room for Upton? Who has an option left? If it’s not a pitcher, then possibilities are Moya, Collins, Bernard, Marte, Machado, Holaday?

I’d be choosing Marte among those guys.

Let the games began . Could be one heck of a season .

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