DETROIT -- Justin Upton said a couple weeks ago that the direction of the Tigers would play a role in his decision whether to opt out of his contract this season. On Thursday, they made their direction clear by trading Upton to the Angels in an end-of-August blockbuster.In exchange for
DETROIT -- Justin Upton said a couple weeks ago that the direction of the Tigers would play a role in his decision whether to opt out of his contract this season. On Thursday, they made their direction clear by trading Upton to the Angels in an end-of-August blockbuster.
In exchange for Upton, the Tigers received right-handed pitching prospect Grayson Long and a Minor League player to be named later. The transaction came together hours before the midnight ET deadline for players to be traded and still be eligible for postseason rosters. Upton had to clear trade waivers in order to be dealt.
The Tigers will send less than $1 million to the Angels to cover part of the remaining money on Upton's $22,125,000 salary this season; anything more than $1 million would have required approval from Major League Baseball. The Halos will be responsible for whatever follows this season, whether Upton opts out or decides to play out the remaining four years on his contract at $22,125,000 per season.
While much of the speculation surrounding the Tigers this summer revolved around Justin Verlander, who could still be dealt by midnight, Upton's summer tear made him more of a commodity, even in a trade market that has proven tough on teams trying to deal outfielders. Upton hit 11 home runs in August to go with 27 RBIs and a .997 OPS. For the season, he's batted .279 with 28 homers, 94 RBIs and a .904 OPS that would be his career best for a season.
Those numbers made it more palatable for Upton to consider opting out of his contract and pursuing a similar -- if not bigger -- contract as a free agent this offseason. While he said two weeks ago that he hadn't yet thought about the possibilities beyond this year, Upton also said the Tigers' direction was a consideration, and that he expected to discuss it at some point with general manager Al Avila.
"Those conversations will be had," Upton said at the time. "I think all the veterans in here want to know what direction we're going and the future of the organization. Al's got an open door, and I'm sure guys will try to figure out what's going on."
The sense within Tigers' offices was that Upton was increasingly leaning toward opting out. If he signed elsewhere, Detroit would get nothing in return; by terms of his contract, it couldn't make him a qualifying offer to get a compensation pick in return.
Thus, when teams expressed interest, the Tigers listened. While Upton's contract included a partial no-trade clause that requires his approval to trades with 20 teams, the Angels were not on that list, according to an industry source.
"[Upton] has been a consummate professional in his time here, and the Tigers wish him and his family all the best moving forward," Avila said in the news release confirming the trade.
The deal is the second involving a Tigers outfielder going to the Angels since the end of last season. Detroit traded Cameron Maybin at the start of last offseason; the Halos traded Maybin to the Astros on Thursday to make room for Upton.
Long, a 23-year-old right-hander, was ranked ninth on MLB Pipeline's Angels prospect list. A third-round pick in the 2015 Draft, Long went 8-6 with a 2.52 ERA in 23 starts at Double-A Mobile, allowing 100 hits over 121 2/3 innings with 38 walks and 111 strikeouts. He also was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts for Class A Inland Empire. The right-hander is in his first full pro season after injuries limited him to 65 innings in 2016.
"Grayson has been a standout player this season in the Southern League, [which] features some of the best prospects in baseball," Avila said in the release. "Grayson is a workhorse-type starter who throws strikes and has a great makeup. Our scouts project him to be a starter at the Major League level."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.