Never say never. The trade deadline may have passed a month ago, but seeing that there are nearly 1,500 exceptions to everything the MLB does, the time to trade is now.
The Detroit Tigers traded outfielder Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels for No. 9 prospect starting pitcher Grayson Long along with a player to be named later or cash. The Tigers are in total rebuilding mode, as Upton is the fourth veteran the Tigers have traded this season. The Angels will look to use Upton’s big bat and speed to stay in the Wild Card race, where they are currently 1.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins.
Here are some pros and cons along with an outlook of this trade for each team.
The Angels are rolling the dice with this one, but it’s all necessary to compete for a playoff spot. Upton’s having an excellent year with a .279 average and .362 on-base percentage with 28 home runs, 94 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases. The Angels figure to find room in the outfield for him by releasing former Tiger Cameron Maybin to Houston.
Ideally, Upton would hit third or fourth in the Angels batting order. He’s got impressive power and defense ability complemented by a humble persona. He’s been the most clutch hitter in a Tigers’ uniform this season. If the Angels were looking to acquire a key piece to their playoff puzzle after the July 31 trade deadline, this is just about as ideal as it will ever get.
For the Tigers, getting rid of Upton’s massive contract is a gem in itself. But they also got a solid prospect in Long. He’s a big guy at 6’5.” He’s in his second year in the minors, where he’s posting a 2.69 ERA in High-A and Double-A. Tigers GM Avila is confident that Long can be a future MLB starter at least in the back end of the rotation.
Adding a pitching prospect is a big victory for any club. Guys like Long are often too valuable to be traded. This makes Detroit’s end of the deal that much more impressive.
Trading for Justin Upton comes at a price. That price is $88.5 million through 2021. Upton also has on opt-out clause of his contract after this season, meaning he has the option to abandon his contract and become a free agent after the conclusion of the 2017 season.
This could be a lose-lose situation for LA. If Upton leaves after this year, then LA just gave up one of their top prospects for a month-long rental who may or many not even make a difference. If Upton stays, LA is forced to acquire his mega contract on top of the huge contracts of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, who already make up about a quarter of LA’s entire payroll.
For Detroit, there is always the question of will Long pan out in the majors. Time will only tell how he’ll work out, but it is worth noting that he only has three good pitches as of now—fastball, slider and changeup.
This trade just came out of nowhere. Only rarely do high profile players get traded this late in the season. In this regard, LA certainly found the piece they desperately needed to complete their wild card puzzle
But if LA still misses the playoffs and J-Up opts-out, the Angels lose in every possible way. Even if Upton decides to stay, this still may or may not work in their favor long-term. LA is betting on Upton propelling them to the postseason. If it works, they look like geniuses. If not, they look like morons.
Detroit needed to rebuild in every way they could, and this helps big-time. They already traded JD Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila this season, but Upton’s deal finally addresses Detroit’s far-too-colossal payroll.
Granted, Upton said he probably would have used his opt-out if not traded, thus redeeming the Tigers of his contract in any situation. But this way, Detroit got a pitcher in return.
The outlook on LA’s gamble for Upton will be decided by their ability to make and succeed in the postseason, followed by Upton’s decision to either stay or opt out of LA.
The outlook on Detroit’s side of the deal is greeted almost completely with positivity. Upton has no use in rebuilding Detroit. By trading him they saved money and received a pitching prospect. It doesn’t get much better than that.