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.