The Detroit Tigers will reportedly sign outfielder Justin Upton to six-year deal worth $132.75 million, according to various reports. MLB Network's Jon Heyman, USA Today's Bob Nightengale, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal have all reported parts of the deal. Upton reportedly has the option to opt out of the contract after his second year.
Upton might be the most exciting of all the outfield possibilities -- yes, moreso than Yoenis Cespedes. Having just turned 28 in August, Upton still has his most productive years ahead of him. That could not be said for Cespedes (age 30) and Gordon (31) have already passed that mark.
Upton has spent more than 2,500 innings in left field during the past two years, posting no worse than average defense in either year, according to the advanced statistics. At the plate he's coming off a .251/.336/.454 season with 26 home runs and an 11 percent walk rate. When you dive a little deeper, you'll find a pleasant wRC+ of 120, where 100 is an average batter. He also stole 19 bases.
For his career Upton has hit .271/.352/.473 across seasons spent in Arizona, Atlanta and San Diego. His 162-game averages include 26 home runs, 32 doubles and five triples. He's been named to three All-Star Games and earned two Silver Slugger awards in his career. He was worth 3.6 WAR last season and 4.0 WAR the year before, per Fangraphs.
This deal would put the Tigers over the luxury tax range, which they were already near, without any further moves. The estimated total for the roster is about $210 million for tax purposes. This comes as some surprise, as the team insisted again and again it was content with its outfield and would not pursue any more big name, big money players. However, thoughts turn back to owner Mike Ilitch, who in November told media (and fans) he would support adding any playershe thought would give his team a good chance at bringing the World Series back to Detroit.
Going with a combination of Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin and Collins would have left the Tigers with a few question marks. You could squint and see how it might work. Maybin hits lefties fairly well and had a good first half in 2015 before injuries caught up to him. Collins hits righties. Gose provides above-average play in the field and on the base paths. Few, though, would have found that situation ideal.
The most likely scenario now is that Upton bats in left while Gose and Maybin split time in center field, a platoon that makes good sense.
The team will need to make a 40-man roster move before it can add Upton. It also forfeits the third-round draft pick in 2016's amateur draft, after already forfeiting the second-round pick for the addition of pitcher Jordan Zimmermann in November.
Heyman did provide one interesting tidbit:
hear mike ilitch was absolutely ready to sign chris davis before gm avila talked him out of it. j-up is (a bit) less $.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2016
Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris speaks for all of us tonight:
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Daniel Norris (@DanielNorris18) January 19, 2016
By the way, if you're playing along at home, Grant Brisbee of SB Nation predicted this in December.
First, just imagine the Kate Upton/Justin Upton/Justin Verlander jokes. I mean, I can't think of any, but he's literally a combination of Justin Verlander and Kate Upton. Ha ha ha, can you imagine?
Okay, that's not funny at all, so we'll move back to the idea of need. The Tigers are a hitter away from turning a compelling lineup into a scary one, the kind of offense that could help a team succeed with an inconsistent rotation.
We'll update this story as often as we need tonight.