The offseason has barely begun, but teams are wasting no time locking down free agents or making long-term contract offers to guys on the fence.
The Los Angeles Angels decided to go all-in to keep Justin Upton around.
According to Bob Nightengale, the Angels inked a 5-year $106 million deal with the former Tigers outfielder. Now, this deal isn’t quite as cut and dry as it looks on paper. For one thing, Upton already had a four-year deal worth $88 million, so basically the Angels are just adding an extra year to that — plus an extra $18 million dollars. Not too shabby to keep a power hitter from walking away.
How does the trade look for the Tigers, now?
Upton was one of the two big names traded ahead of the August 31st deadline (though both those names were “Justin”). In return for sending Upton to sunny California, the Tigers received right-handed pitcher Grayson Long, cash, salary cap relief, and a player to be named later, who ended up being Elvin Rodriguez. Upton, in turn, gets to play alongside Mike Trout for a team that has a much better shot of making the 2018 postseason.
On the surface, the winner here is Justin Upton. But let’s look a little deeper. There was a good chance he would have exercised his opt-out with the Tigers, knowing their plans to rebuild, walking away after the season regardless. What the Tigers got from this deal was two prospects and some cash in order for the Angels to test-drive Upton for a month.
The Angels have evidently liked what they’ve seen, and put their money on Upton to help them succeed next season. The Tigers cut their payroll and will be under the luxury tax threshold next season.
As for the Tigers return in the trade?
Grayson Long did not fare well in Double-A Erie in his single game appearance, but that’s such a small sample size it’s unfair to judge on its own. For his whole 2017 season, the bulk of which was played in Double-A Mobile for the Angels, Long had an ERA of 3.01, a 1.199 WHIP, and went 8-9 for season starts. Nothing too exciting, but also not the worst showing.
Long was, however, considered a top 10 prospect by Baseball America at the midseason of 2017, so there’s an awful lot of promise in him.
Elvin Rodriguez, the PTBNL, didn’t play for the Tigers organization this season, but the right-handed pitcher showed our Angels sister site Halos Haven had this to say of him.
At 6-3, 160 lbs., Rodriguez certainly has room to fill out. If he can add a couple MPH to his fastball while refining his off-speed repertoire, he could climb the rankings of the Angels’ modest system rather quickly. Any 18 year-old pitcher with modest stuff is a long shot, but Rodriguez appears to already possess the type of pitchability you see in prospects with far more experience, making him a player worth keeping an eye on over the next few seasons.
Time will tell how the players pan out, but the Tigers certainly aren’t losers on this trade. In fact, this seems to be a rare case of things paying off well for both teams, as well as for Upton himself.