Anyone who thought that All-Star Justin Upton would have to settle for a short-term contract to re-establish his value was dead wrong. Way wrong. Perhaps they didn’t remember that the win-now Detroit Tigers have an 86-year old owner that’s worth over $5 billion and wants nothing else than to see his beloved team win the World Series. This is why he instructed his front office to make a big splash and get a big bat for the outfield, which is what GM Al Avila has done. Reportedly, the Tigers signed Justin Upton to a six-year contract worth $132.75 milion, distributed an even $22.125 million per year. The deal gives Upton a full no-trade clause and an opt-out clause after two years, allowing him to re-enter the free agent market when he’s 30 years old.
Reportedly, last week, Tigers owner Mike Illitch was willing to sign Chris Davis at his asking price. He was planning on using the big slugger to play LF on an everyday basis, and fill in for Miguel Cabrera at 1B when needed or DH for V-Mart. GM Al Avila persuaded Illitch that would be a big risk considering Davis has never consistently played in the outfield, and that the Tigers needed an OF that was defensive whiz and a slugger, such as Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton. Illitch gave him the signal to pursue a big-name outfielder last week. Already familiar with Yoenis, Tigers GM Avila and manager Brad Ausmus decided to pay a visit to Upton’s home last Friday night. Over the weekend, the team were in negotiations with both Upton and Cespedes. Possibly due to Cespedes looking for more money that Chris Davis achieved, Tigers decided to wrap things up with Justin Upton and granted the opt-out clause he desired. Detroit isn’t too keen on giving opt-out clauses even though free agents ask them (a la Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey this year). Due to the signings of Zimmermann and Upton, the Tigers will be losing their second round and third round picks in the upcoming draft, due to their top-10 pick being protected.
The deal pushes the Tigers over the luxury tax and will have to pay a penalty for being a first-time offender. However, they may only have to pay the penalty for one year since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could increase the luxury tax threshold. Illitch claimed during Jordan Zimmermann’s press conference that he doesn’t care about spending the money and that he instructed Avila to get him the best players. In an already busy offseason that included the acquisitions of Zimmermann, Pelfrey, K-Rod, Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe, Saltalamacchia, and Mike Aviles, Avila made the final touch to an incredible offseason. The Tigers spent more than other team in free agency, besides the Cubs by a few million, this year. They’re only the second team in MLB history to give out multiple $100 million contracts in a single offseason (the Yankees were the first and they did so on two occasions).
The Tigers’ offseason looks to be set now and their team looks ready to contend for a division crown and possibly the World Series title. They believe they have a two year window with Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, and Anibal Sanchez all possibly leaving after 2017. Their outfield has lots of power and speed with All-Stars Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez at the corners and a combination of Anthony Gose and Cameron Maybin at center. Their infield is set with the dynamic double-play combo of Kinsler and Iglesias as well as Cabrera and Castellanos at the corners. Saltalamacchia will be backing up James McCann at the backstop this season. The bullpen is where they made the most improvements–acquiring Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, and Justin Wilson–and reportedly still in the market for another one.
So what do you think? Will Upton be the final touch for a team that’s expected to seriously contend in the challenging AL Central division? What are your opinions on Tigers owner Mike Illitch?