One month ago, at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Angels were four games under .500 and five games out of the second American League Wild Card spot. Still, general manager Billy Eppler refrained from selling off all his assets, as he felt confident that the Halos had a chance to improve their standing as they became healthier and more players performed up to their expectations.
The Angels responded by going 18-10 in August, pulling within 1 1/2 games of the Twins for the final AL Wild Card slot. On Thursday, ahead of the Aug. 31 Deadline for players to be eligible for postseason rosters, Eppler bolstered the Halos' postseason bid by acquiring All-Star slugger Justin Upton and cash considerations from the Tigers in exchange for their No. 9 prospect, Grayson Long, and a player to be named later or cash.
• Upton gives Angels another clutch-spot threat
"This team showed a lot of fight over the course of the year, and the punches were getting stronger," Eppler said in a conference call on Thursday. "Guys were hitting harder, and their play warranted continued investment in the club, which we were able to do when [owner] Arte [Moreno] gave us the green light."
To clear a spot for Upton in left field, the Angels let Cameron Maybin go to the Astros on waivers.
Upton, 30, is hitting .279/.362/.542 with 28 homers this season. His .904 OPS represents a career high, and he is on pace to surpass his career best of 31 homers, set last year and in 2011.
"Adding [Upton] brings a significant presence into the middle of our lineup," Eppler said. "He's an impact bat, brings the ability to hit for average, the ability to control the strike zone and the ability to drive the baseball."
Upton is owed $88.5 million through 2021, but he has an opt-out clause that can only be exercised after this season. Trade talks picked up after Upton informed the Tigers he would likely opt out due to Detroit's rebuild, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported.
Upton's contract also includes a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block a deal to 20 clubs. The Angels were not among teams on Upton's no-trade list, Morosi reported, and he has not given his new team any guarantees regarding his opt-out clause.
"Honestly, that's something we haven't discussed," Upton said. "But what I'm excited about is being back into playoff contention and trying to help out the Angels to get to where they want to go, and I think I can be a piece to help with that."
Left field has been a revolving door for the Angels over the last five years, beginning with the club's ill-fated signing of Josh Hamilton. The Halos acquired Maybin from the Tigers over the offseason with hope he would fill that void, but the 30-year-old batted .235 with a .685 OPS and 29 steals in 93 games. He will likely fill a bench role with the Astros, who will take on the rest of Maybin's $9 million salary for 2017.
Long, a 23-year-old right-hander, recorded a 2.53 ERA in 23 starts with Double-A Mobile this season. He was the Angels' third-round Draft pick in 2015.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Undoubtedly a big name to move teams this late in the year, Upton could have major implications on the AL Wild Card race. But from a pure fantasy standpoint, this trade does not have game-changing implications. The 30-year-old is set to join a Halos lineup that trails Detroit in runs scored, but he should enjoy the benefits of hitting near superstar Michael Trout, who -- along with Jose Pujols and Kole Calhoun -- could enjoy counting-stat boosts of their own. Meanwhile, fantasy owners can look to stream starters against a Detroit lineup that has endured the loss of talented bats to trade (Upton, J.D. Martinez), and less-than-stellar seasons from stars Jose Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and the currently sidelined Victor Martinez.