Rather than exercise a player opt-out clause in his previous contract, Justin Upton chose to avoid free agency by agreeing to a new five-year, $106MM contract to stay with the Angels. Upton’s enjoyment of his time in Anaheim certainly played a role in his decision to remain, though as he told reporters (including the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher), he was also wary of a long wait on the open market. “I kind of got a little taste of it two years ago when I was a free agent,” Upton said. “I kind of understood the way the trend was going. At the end of the day, if you can avoid it, avoid it, because things are definitely changing.” Upton tested free agency in the 2015-16 offseason and had to wait until mid-January to land a deal, though he did eventually land a very healthy six-year, $132.75MM commitment from the Tigers. Upton’s presence would’ve certainly created a big ripple effect in this winter’s free agent class, though it’s also possible to think that he would’ve been one of the many other top names still looking for new teams as Spring Training camps open.
Some more Halos news…
- Angels owner Arte Moreno met with the media (including MLB.com’s Maria Guardado) at the opening of his team’s spring camp to discuss several topics, including Mike Trout’s future in an Angels uniform. Moreno said that there isn’t any particular rush to discuss another extension with Trout, though the idea is “always in our minds. We’re always thinking about it. It’s not only him, because we have other players. But if you look at long-term plans, you’re always trying to position yourself properly when it’s time to do it.” Trout’s previous extension (a six-year, $144.5MM deal) runs through the 2020 season and has to already be considered a major bargain, given Trout’s superstar-level play and the fact that he would’ve been a free agent this offseason had he not agreed to that deal.
- With a projected luxury tax payroll of roughly $175MM and an Opening Day payroll of around $187MM in actual dollars, Moreno said his team has some flexibility to add players during the season if necessary. The Angels have consistently spent big money under Moreno’s ownership, and while the results haven’t always matched the expenditures, Moreno said that he would “get out” of owning the team altogether rather than pursue a bare-bones rebuild in the style of the Astros or Cubs.
- Albert Pujols’ last two offseasons were hampered by foot surgeries, so the slugger was happy to simply enjoy a normal winter and focus solely on training rather than rehabbing, he told Guardado and other reporters. Pujols said he explored new training facilities and a regiment focused on agility and flexibility drills, which led to a weight loss of close to 15 pounds. After suffering through easily the worst of his 17 MLB seasons, Pujols is hoping his better health leads to a big rebound year, particularly since the Angels are hoping for him to get more action at first base in order to free up DH at-bats for Shohei Ohtani.