The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign free agent outfielder Justin Upton to a six-year deal, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Jon Heyman of MLB Network Monday evening.
Upton will make $132.75 million. This equates to a $22.125 million annual average value (AAV). That is just a bit less than Chris Davis ($23 million) and Jason Heyward ($23 million) earned in their new contracts this offseason.
The deal is another pact this offseason that includes an opt-out clause, with Upton's coming after the second season.
With the signing, the Tigers will forfeit their third round draft pick. Their first round selection, No. 9 overall, is a protected pick. Their second round slot was lost in the signing of Jordan Zimmermann early in the offseason. The Padres, Upton's former team, will gain a compensatory pick for him signing elsewhere.
Detroit made a front office regime change during the season, firing then-GM Dave Dombrowski and replacing him with Al Avila. They retooled at the trade deadline, dealing both David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, but the Tigers have indicated that they want to contend this offseason.
Justin Upton slides into a really deep lineup, batting alongside the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, and Ian Kinsler.
In the outfield, he's an immediate upgrade and a big one too. Now, the Tigers have J.D. Martinez and a Cameron Maybin-Anthony Gose platoon to supplement the outfield in Comerica Park.
Upton's free agent status was closely tied to other position player free agents. Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, and Yoenis Cespedes all remained unsigned heading into the New Year, but as the first two agreed to new pacts, Upton's market became clearer.
The Orioles, White Sox, and Giants were among the teams connected to Upton at some point during this offseason.
The 28-year-old hit .251/.336/.454 with 26 home runs and 85 RBIs in 620 plate appearances last year. According to FanGraphs, he was worth 3.6 Wins Above Replacement.
Upton has had varied amounts of success during his career, but has a lifetime .271/.352/.473 slash line with a 121 wRC+ and a 26.5 Wins Above Replacement in parts of nine big league seasons with the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Padres.
At $22.125 million a season, Upton definitely cannot be unhappy with his new contract. That falls right in line with other top position player free agents, and he also gets the added bonus of having an opt-out after two years. It's hard to find flaws in this deal from the player perspective.
As for the Tigers, the deal will really only pay off if it makes the difference for them in contending in the future. That's a lot to ask for from a player that has shown the ability to be a superstar, but has not put it together. A lot of risk is involved in the deal, but the team still wants to contend while they have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the fold, and I don't blame them.