- Upton ended up with a robust six-year, $132.75MM deal with the Tigers this winter, Reynolds says that Upton’s search for a new team hit a snag this offseason before he ultimately signed. Some teams’ potential interest in Upton was muted by their desire to avoid exceeding the luxury tax threshold. (Reynolds doesn’t say who, but it’s easy to imagine the Angels, for example, worrying about that issue.) Also, a robust trade market held up potential free agent signings, with some teams wanting to explore that market before making a commitment to a free agent. Reynolds also says that many teams were offering Upton short-term deals. The agent understandably notes that he found such deals unappealing, given that Upton is highly talented and just 28. Of course, Detroit ultimately came through with a long-term offer.
- It was, perhaps, a rough winter for Kendrick, who lingered on the free agent market before officially signing a seemingly disappointing two-year, $20MM deal to stay with the Dodgers. The qualifying offer had a strong impact on Kendrick, Reynolds says, since he didn’t have the “star power” of some other free agents who rejected the QO. For Kendrick, the effect of the qualifying offer on his market wasn’t purely about the amount of money he could get, but about the way it restricted his ability to choose what team (what manager, what front office, and so on) he wanted to play for. Reynolds says that it “wasn’t a slam dunk to jump out into the market” rather than accepting the qualifying offer, but Kendrick felt, and Reynolds agreed, that Kendrick had earned the right to choose his next team via free agency.
Via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune, here are a few notes from White Sox GM Rick Hahn, who spoke to fans at the team’s SoxFest yesterday.
- Kane writes that although the White Sox have added Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie and others this offseason, much of the discussion Friday focused on players the White Sox have missed on, particularly Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton. Hahn says the White Sox were aggressive with free agent targets they ultimately missed out on. “Any of these players who decide ultimately they want to return to where they came from, I have to respect that and tip my hat to them,” he said, perhaps referring to Gordon and/or Cespedes. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to try to get it done.”
- Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond remain on the free agent market, and it appears either one could help the White Sox. One potential problem for Chicago, though, is that both players rejected qualifying offers. The Sox’ top pick in the tenth overall and will therefore be protected, but the Sox also currently have the No. 28 pick as compensation for the loss of Jeff Samardzija. “The draft pick has real value,” said Hahn. “A couple of million dollars worth of pool money, which allows you to be flexible with that draft pick or pay some forward or pay some back. … At some level, you balance the ability to improve this club versus the long-term impact that losing a pick like that would have.”
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura says Adam LaRoche will have to win the starting DH job in Spring Training, Kane tweets. The 36-year-old LaRoche is coming off a miserable .207/.293/.340 2015 season in which, considering his lack of defensive value, he was arguably one of the least productive everyday players in the Majors. Of course, as Kane implies, the question is who might replace him if the White Sox decide he’s not worthy of regular playing time.
The Tigers are one of the many teams to pull out of the Venezuelan Summer League, reports Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Political instability in the region has caused the league to collapse. GM Al Avila said the Tigers would continue to maintain their Venezuelan baseball academy and will also participate in the winter-based Parallel League. Some clubs are adding a second Dominican team to develop their Latin prospects, but Detroit is planning to open a Gulf Coast League team instead.
Here’s more from the Tigers:
- Back in August, GM Al Avila restructured the front office to create a baseball analytics department, writes James Hawkins of the Detroit News. At the club’s recent TigerFest, Avila admitted the club didn’t previously have an analytics team. He specifically referenced Statcast, a relatively new technology that tracks nearly everything that occurs on a baseball field. Technology in the game has developed to the point that no team can ignore the importance of data researchers.
- Justin Upton may have made his first impression on scouts when he was just 13, writes Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Upton happened to be hanging around a ball field where a group of college players needed a catcher. Upton had no experience behind the plate but fearless donned the tools of ignorance to catch much more physically mature pitchers. When older brother Melvin Upton hit the competitive circuit with players like Cameron Maybin, David Wright, and Ryan Zimmerman, the younger Upton tagged along.
- Second baseman Ian Kinsler has made maintaining his speed a priority, writes George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. Kinsler doesn’t want to become a bat-only player (despite rumors of 15 more DH jobs on the horizon). As such, a focus on continuing to run quickly will help him to regularly produce for the Tigers.
Here’s the latest from the AL Central on a quiet Saturday night:
- Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was a big reason why Justin Upton decided to sign with Detroit, writes Terence Moore of MLB.com. Ilitch has repeatedly shown a willingness to invest in his club, this time blowing by the luxury tax threshold for the first time in club history. Upton had this to say at his press conference, “I think what sold me mostly is Mr. Ilitch is a guy who wants to win ballgames, wants to win a championship.” The club has seemingly improved across the board by adding Upton, starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, and closer Francisco Rodriguez (among others).
- Bruce Rondon is expected to join the Tigers in Spring Training, reports Aaron McMann of Mlive.com. Rondon is currently suffering the aftereffects of chikungunya virus, a mosquito-born illness. He’s made headlines a couple times in the last half year. The team sent Rondon home prior to the end of the season due to a lack of effort. Rondon was serving as the club’s interim closer for much of the preceding period. More recently, he was a part of a large bench clearing brawl in the Venezuelan Winter League.
- Infield prospect JaCoby Jones is also expected to report to Spring Training on time, per McMann. Jones has 38 games remaining on a 50 game suspension for a “drug of abuse.” It was his second such offense. Jones was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Joakim Soria.
- The Indians have another uphill battle in the AL Central after the Tigers signed Upton, writes Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Even after the deal, Cleveland is projected to win the division by FanGraphs. However, it’s expected to a wild ride with just six wins separating the Indians (84-78) from the last place Twins (78-84). Incidentally, the Indians are expected to spend about $100MM less on their ball club than the Tigers (82-80). Pluto wistfully wishes the club would dedicate a few more dollars to improving their playoff odds.
The Nationals made an effort to sign Justin Upton but came up short to the Tigers, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, adding that with Upton now in Detroit, the Nationals are in pursuit of fellow free agent Yoenis Cespedes. While exact parameters aren’t known at this time, Rosenthal hears that the Nationals have indeed made an offer to Cespedes. The proposed contract is not as lucrative as the one that Upton landed in Detroit, writes Rosenthal, although the mere fact that they have an offer on the table does speak to the sincerity of their interest.
As Rosenthal points out, Cespedes is far from a perfect fit for the Nationals’ roster. Jayson Werth is owed $42MM over the next two seasons, has a full no-trade clause on his contract and struggled with health and on-field production in 2015. Suffice it to say, all of that makes a trade difficult to envision. Bryce Harper, of course, is a fixture in the outfield on the heels of his first National League MVP Award, and the team recently traded for Ben Revere to pair with Michael A. Taylor in center field. Speaking purely speculatively, the Nats could look to trade Revere themselves or move Taylor, considering Cespedes a large enough upgrade to make an unexpected play in that regard. While both Cespedes and Harper are best suited for corner outfield work, Cespedes played quite a bit of center field last season (albeit, with some difficulties), and many scouts believe that Harper is young enough and athletic enough to capably handle center field for a few years.
However, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes, the lack of a clear fit doesn’t necessarily preclude the Nationals from making a splash. The Nats didn’t look like an on-paper fit for Max Scherzer one year ago but still sprung to sign him, pushing Tanner Roark out of the rotation just months after he had turned in a seemingly breakout campaign. GM Mike Rizzo has long prioritized a deep roster, Janes notes, and the team could mix and match with Revere in center and Cespedes in left on days when Werth is out of the lineup (I’ll also point out that Werth has quite a lengthy injury history and is by no means a lock to stay healthy in 2016). Janes also points out that the Nats had interest in Cespedes back in 2012 when he was an international free agent, adding that the team’s current payroll projects to be about $30MM lighter than it was at the end of the 2015 season.
Earlier this week, reports indicated the market for Cespedes was intensifying. To this point, the Orioles have been linked to Cespedes most prominently — at least in terms of their willingness to spend on him — but it’s unclear if they remain in the mix after re-signing Chris Davis. The Mets are said to open to a short-term deal with Cespedes, and the same is said to be true of the White Sox, who just tonight were reported to be maintaining their limit of a three-year term in their pursuit. Late last night, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin threw the Padres into the Cespedes market to some extent as well, reporting that the team is “monitoring” the late development of his market.
Wagner’s piece reports that Washington’s offer to Upton was for less than the six years he received in Detroit, and Rosenthal hears the same. Furthermore, the team also reportedly offered Jason Heyward $200MM earlier this offseason. Clearly, the Nationals are open to, if not actively seeking outfield improvements, and Rosenthal adds that Nationals ownership is “intrigued” by Cespedes. Whether that culminates in an agreement remains to be seen, but the Nationals could take the approach of hoarding as much talent as they possibly can this offseason, then worry about how to maximize said talent in terms of on-field production when the season rolls around.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News breaks down the series of events that led to the Tigers’ signing of Justin Upton to a six-year, $132.75MM contract today. As Henning notes, owner Mike Ilitch went into the club’s annual offseason holiday break with some reservations about the concept of a Cameron Maybin/Tyler Collins platoon in left field. By the time Tigers’ brass returned to their offices, Ilitch was committed to signing one of Upton, Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon to upgrade in left field. Tigers scouts and analysts went to work on making as informed a decision as possible, and GM Al Avila consulted with assistant Alan Trammel and Tigers broadcaster Kirk Gibson about their personal experiences with Upton from the trio’s days together in Arizona. Henning notes that Detroit also considered Chris Davis, as Jon Heyman reported, but ultimately concerns over his ability to handle left field at Comerica Park eliminated him from the fold. Upton’s age and superior on-base percentage appear to have been focal points in the decision, though Henning notes that Cespedes was under serious consideration until last week. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted the same yesterday, noting that Detroit negotiated with both Upton and Cespedes simultaneously before deciding on Upton.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Upton’s agent, Larry Reynolds, said at today’s press conference that they offered the Tigers a pair of scenario’s: a longer-term deal without an opt-out clause and the six-year deal with a two-year opt-out that Upton ultimately signed (links to Twitter via MLB.com’s Jason Beck). Reynolds adds that Upton didn’t sign with Detroit to be a Tiger for only two years, stating, “Justin’s been on enough teams.” Of course, if Upton enjoys two healthy and productive seasons in Detroit in 2016-17, it’d be a surprise if he didn’t again test the open market in advance of his age-30 season.
- The Tigers might not yet be done adding pieces, Beck tweets. At today’s press conference, Avila told reporters, “I’d still like to have more depth in pitching. We’re adequate right now.” An addition to the rotation seems unlikely, at least on a Major League deal, though the team could reasonably pursue some depth on a minor league deal or look to add one more piece to the bullpen mix.
- The White Sox remain interested in Yoenis Cespedes, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link), but their stance has not changed since their initially reported interest. Per Nightengale, the ChiSox are still unwilling to exceed a three-year term in their pursuit of Cespedes. A short-term deal for Cespedes still strikes me as an unlikely scenario.
- The Twins’ trade of Aaron Hicks this winter caught Byron Buxton off guard, the top prospect tells MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. The trade was somewhat bittersweet for Buxton, Bollinger writes, as he lost one of his best friends on the team but also received a clear-cut message that the center field job was his for the taking. Buxton says he made some adjustments late in the season, and the numbers bear that out, as Bollinger notes, pointing out his .273/.314/.515 batting line in his final 20 games. Manager Paul Molitor tells Bollinger that the organization’s hope is that Buxton is ready to take the reins in center field and run with it, though as Bollinger writes, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Danny Santana all have some experience in center field should Buxton struggle.
- La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets that Twins scouts believe left-hander Fernando Abad was tipping his pitches last season, which resulted in the veteran’s struggles. The Twins believe they can correct the issue, per Neal, which would give Abad a shot to break camp with the club. Minnesota signed the 30-year-old to a minor league deal earlier this offseason. Abad posted a 4.15 ERA with Oakland last season but had recorded a 2.27 ERA across 95 innings in the two seasons prior.
JAN 20: Detroit has announced the signing.
JAN. 18: While many expected the Tigers to be finished with their offseason spending, owner Mike Ilitch reminded naysayers on Monday evening to never count the Tigers out of the free-agent market, as Detroit reportedly agreed to a six-year, $132.75MM with free-agent outfielder Justin Upton. The 28-year-old Reynolds Sports Management client will reportedly receive an opt-out clause after the second year of the deal, which is said to pay him an evenly distributed $22.125MM per year. Upton also reportedly secured a partial (twenty-team) no-trade clause in the deal, which does not contain any deferred money, unlike some of the other major deals signed this offseason and in recent years.
Upton will join what was an already imposing middle-of-the-order grouping in Detroit, adding another right-handed bat to join the likes of Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler and the switch-hitting Victor Martinez. That quintet should give opposing left-handed pitcher fits, though each is plenty formidable against right-handed pitching as well. Across the past three years, which he’s split between the Braves and Padres, Upton has batted .262/.344/.470 and averaged 27 home runs per season. While he’s not a standout defensive player in the outfield, he’s a solid enough defender in left field, where Ultimate Zone Rating pegged him at +2 runs and Defensive Runs Saved valued him at +8 in 2015. His addition should lead to either a Cameron Maybin/Anthony Gose platoon in center field or an outfield alignment of Upton-Maybin-Martinez (J.D., that is), with Gose serving as a fourth outfielder. His signing and the presence of Martinez on the other corner have effectively blocked prospects Tyler Collins and Steven Moya for the foreseeable future.
By signing Upton, the Tigers will surrender their second draft pick of the offseason. Detroit’s No. 9 overall selection is protected under the collective bargaining agreement, but the team already parted with its second-round pick to add right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the rotation, so they’ll forfeit their third-round pick — currently projected to be the 85th in the draft, per Baseball America — to sign Upton. The Padres, who extended a qualifying offer to Upton that was ultimately rejected, will receive a compensatory pick between at the end of the first round of the 2016 draft.
Of course, the addition of Upton is not without long-term payroll ramifications. While there’s every possibility that Upton will opt out of the contract in two years’ time (assuming that he is healthy and productive from 2016-17), there’s also the risk that his production declines or injuries lead to him opting into the remaining four years. Considering the fact that the Tigers owe Cabrera $218MM through 2023, Verlander $112MM through 2019, Zimmermann $110MM through 2020 and Victor Martinez $54MM through 2018, Upton’s contract adds another risk-laden deal to the ledger in the name of present-day winning. Those payroll concerns are likely a large part of the reason that GM Al Avila said earlier this offseason that further outfield additions (and, in fact, significant additions in general) were largely unlikely. However, owner Mike Ilitch has long been one of baseball’s freest spenders, and he candidly told the media following Zimmermann’s press conference that he “doesn’t care” about spending money. It’s quite possible — especially considering the potential luxury tax ramifications it carries — that this contract is more of an ownership decision than one from the club’s top baseball operations decision-makers.
By my crude calculations, the Upton signing will push the Tigers to just shy of $176MM worth of luxury-tax considerations in terms of only the team’s guaranteed contracts. With arbitration-eligible players not even factored into that equation, it seems quite likely that Detroit will incur penalties, which, as FOX’s Ken Rosenthal notes (on Twitter), would mean a 17.5 percent tax on every dollar over $189MM as a first-time offender of the luxury tax penalty.
Risk aside, the Tigers’ lineup is now among baseball’s most formidable collections of hitters, though it’s admittedly a right-leaning bunch. Upton is a lifetime .271/.352/.473 hitter, and while he has yet to develop into the consistent superstar-level performer that many forecast in his prospect days, he’s a consistent three- to four-win player, depending on one’s preferred version of WAR, and arguably has some upside remaining in the tank. Upton, after all, posted an enormous .289/.369/.529 batting line with 31 home runs back in 2011, and while that season did come in Arizona’s hitter-friendly Chase Field, he’s still young enough that it’s not out of the question for him to replicate that level of production. Even if his offense is more commensurate with his career batting line or his post-2011 production, however, Upton’s age makes him a likely candidate to maintain his status as a well-above-average bat in his new environs.
The Upton contract figures to be the final significant piece for the Tigers this offseason. Added to the signings of Zimmermann (five years, $110MM), Mike Pelfrey (two years, $16MM), Mark Lowe (two years, $11MM), Mike Aviles (one year, $2MM) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (one year, $507.5K), that makes a total of $270.26MM spent on free agents alone, to say nothing of the guaranteed payroll added in trades to acquire Francisco Rodriguez ($9.5MM), Justin Wilson ($1.525MM) and Maybin ($5.5MM). All told, the Tigers have spent a staggering $288.78MM on upgrades to their roster this season.
As for Upton, he’ll receive a sizable guaranteed payday which, while coming up a bit short of the $147MM projected by MLBTR at the onset of free agency, also includes a highly valuable opt-out clause that allows him to re-enter the open market heading into his age-30 campaign. At that point, Upton could be in line for a similar or even greater amount to the guarantee he just received — particularly if either the market or his bat takes a notable step forward — while having already banked $44.25MM in his two years with the Tigers. In examining the rash of opt-out clauses that have been given out this winter — Upton joins Jason Heyward, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen and Ian Kennedy as players to receive an opt-out provision — MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz estimated that such clauses could carry a theoretical monetary value as high as $20MM. Suffice it to say, suggestions that Upton may ultimately need to settle for a one-year deal (or any form of short-term pact) proved to be something of an overreaction to his quiet market. The sizable deal serves as a reminder that free agents of this caliber will nearly always get paid, even if their market isn’t apparent (a concept Jeff Todd an I discussed on last week’s MLBTR Podcast, in which we noted Detroit as a possible landing spot for a high-priced outfielder). While the temptation to say that this signing further shrinks the market for Yoenis Cespedes certainly exists, I’d counter by saying that Upton’s deal should suggest that eventually, Cespedes will get the long-term deal he seeks, even if his ultimate landing spot doesn’t currently appear to be an ideal fit.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported talks between the two sides. Jon Heyman reported that the two sides were nearing a deal and that Upton would be getting a long-term deal (links to Twitter). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the agreement, pending a physical. Rosenthal was the first to tweet the six-year term, and Nightengale broke news of the $132.75MM guarantee (via Twitter). Rosenthal reported the opt-out clause (via Twitter), and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was first to mention the no-trade clause (Twitter link). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported the evenly distributed breakdown of the deal (Twitter link). Nightengale reported that there were no deferrals (Twitter link). Heyman reported that Upton’s partial no-trade clause allows him to block trades to 20 teams (Twitter link).
Last night’s news that the Tigers had landed Justin Upton surprised some, who felt that his market may have dried up. But while pitching was first in the queue this winter, we’ve seen a steady stream of position player signings at or near expectations ever since we hit 2016.
With the agreement set to be announced tomorrow after a physical, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link), here are some reactions to and ramifications of the move:
- Both the Nationals and Astros had expressed interest in Upton, and “may” look instead at top remaining free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. Neither team looks in need of a player at that position, of course, but both are in position to be opportunistic. (Houston has been fairly quiet after a bold trade deadline, while Washington still appears to be about $30MM shy of its 2015 payroll after several moves.)
- The Braves also had conversations with Upton, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but the club was only discussing a six-year deal at a “significantly lower average annual value” than Upton’s new contract provides. GM John Coppolella acknowledged the chats, adding that his club will “remain both opportunistic and disciplined.”
- Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was “absolutely ready” to sign Chris Davis, tweets Jon Heyman, but GM Al Avila talked him out of taking that route. From where I stand, that seems wise; unless Detroit was convinced that Davis could play the corner outfield on a regular basis for at least another year or two, it’s hard to see how he’d fit.
- Once the decision was made to focus on Upton, Avila and skipper Brad Ausmus went to Phoenix and negotiated with Upton over the weekend, Nightengale reports. Per the report, the White Sox, Rangers, and Astros were other key teams in the hunt for Upton.
- A source with knowledge of the Astros’ side of things tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the interest was never very “serious.” It does not appear that the ’Stros talked about much more than a three-year scenario. (While it isn’t clear what kind of ideas might have been batted around, MLBTR’s Steve Adams has written about the plausibility of an opt-out-driven, high-AAV, multi-year pillow contract concept.)
- Ilitch’s latest big move proves that he’s the “most munificent owner in professional sports,” Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports argues. Certainly, he’s proven willing on plenty of occasions to plunk down the cash needed to arm his ballclub, this time cracking the luxury tax ceiling to add Upton. (They’ve done so previously on at least one occasion.)
- From my perspective, it seems that Detroit got a nice price on a prime-aged free agent. The price comes in well below our expectations here at MLBTR, and even further below what Upton might have commanded with a bigger platform year. It may or may not be reasonable to hope that he has some growth remaining as a player, but even the current package makes for a solid investment given his age. As always, there’s risk. But as major win-now, open-market moves go, it’s hard to do much better.
ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Mets should not commit to Yoenis Cespedes, as they’d be better served holding onto the remaining resources they have in order to see what needs might arise during the season (ESPN Insider subscription required). Barring a sudden increase in payroll from ownership, he says, rashly pursuing Cespedes could prevent the team from addressing a more significant area this coming summer. But public pressure is growing for New York to make a play for the team’s 2015 trade-deadline star, he notes.
More on the market …
- John Harper of the New York Daily News feels that the Justin Upton signing further adds to the pressure on the Mets, though he also adds that the $132.75MM guarantee probably indicates that Upton had significant interest from multiple teams. If that’s the case, some of those clubs could very well turn their attention to Cespedes. If Cespedes lands a comparable or greater deal, Harper points out, it will explain why the Mets failed to bring him back into the fold. However, if he signs for three or four years elsewhere, Harper believes it’ll be hard for the Mets to justify their lack of spending. As we’ve discussed often here at MLBTR, though, short-term or even mid-range scenarios such as Harper describes continue to appear unlikely for Cespedes, who — like Upton — still figures to find a large and lengthy guarantee despite his extended wait on the market.
- When evaluating baseball contracts, the concept of deferred money is both rightly referenced and often misunderstood. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs provides good perspective on the recent Chris Davis deal, explaining that the total value of his contract can’t just be discounted all the way to one, lump-sum present value — at least, that is, unless we treat every other contract the same way. (Point being: we typically add up future payouts in multi-year deals without discounting their value, even though the same rationale applies to all money owed in the future, whether or not “deferred.”) Cameron attempts to put the Davis deal on roughly the same footing as a more typically structured deal that pays out annual salaries in the year they are earned, concluding that the $161MM guarantee is probably best thought of as a $148MM pact.
- Veteran reliever Joe Nathan is getting bites from around ten teams, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Nathan is looking to come back from Tommy John surgery at 41 years of age. While he’s not likely to be signed with any grand expectations, and struggled in his most recent run with the Tigers, it’s easy to see why teams would be willing to give him a shot given that he remained productive well in his late thirties.
- Free agency is typically the most straightforward way to address a need, and Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth looks at what teams have done to address the biggest problem areas around the league from the 2015 season.
8:29pm: The Tigers are in discussions with free agent outfielder Justin Upton, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Things have been relatively quiet on the Upton front as of late, with more focus being placed on fellow corner outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but Detroit does stand out as a logical landing spot for a top-tier outfielder.
As it stands, the Tigers figure to use a combination of Anthony Gose and Cameron Maybin in left field and center field, though the addition of Upton could theoretically push those two into a platoon or shift Gose into fourth outfielder territory. Detroit general manager Al Avila has said previously that he considers his heavy lifting this winter to be complete and finds a significant outfield addition unlikely, but owner Mike Ilitch could potentially go over his GM’s head in order to bring in a high-profile outfield addition. Upton, who has slashed .262/.344/.470 and averaged 27 homers per year across the past three seasons would certainly fit the bill.
It remains unclear how serious talks between the two sides are at present, and adding another hefty contract to the books with Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann all signed through 2019, plus Victor Martinez through 2018 and Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez through 2017 would be risky. However, Ilitch has long been one of the most aggressive owners in terms of free-agent spending and candidly stated earlier this offseason (after the Zimmermann signing) that he “didn’t care” about spending money.
Signing Upton, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Padres in November, would cost the Tigers a draft pick. However, Detroit’s No. 9 overall selection is protected under the collective bargaining agreement, and the team already forfeited its second-round pick to sign Zimmermann, meaning that the cost to sign Upton for Detroit would be “only” a third-round pick — a considerably lighter cost than many other potential Upton suitors would face.