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.