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Detroit Tigers Sign Justin Upton to Reasonable 6-Year, $133 Million Deal

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The Detroit Tigers continue to focus on winning a World Series while their 86-year old owner (Mike Ilitch) is still alive and, although the Tigers have had some of the best rosters in baseball over the past few years, they have failed to deliver a championship just like Ilitch’s Little Caesar’s fail to deliver anything at all. While the Upton signing (6 years, 132.75 million) won’t get them to the level that the Tigers are looking for, he certainly improves the team and doesn’t break Detroit’s bank. Upton, 28, has always been just one year away from superstardom and, while he is yet to take that next step, spending his prime seasons in Detroit with Miguel Cabrera can’t hurt. For all of Upton’s praise and potential, he is a lifetime .271/.352/.473 hitter who has topped the 30-hr mark once and strikes out in about 1/4 of his ABs. The 2005 1st overall pick has the talent but he still hasn’t put together the season we’ve been expecting since his debut as a teenager in 2007.

22 mil+ a year may seem like a lot but the Tigers’ already-tiny window of opportunity is closing and Upton is younger than (and has a better overall track record than) Chris Davis who just signed for 7 years 161 or Jacoby Ellsbury (7/153 at age 30) or Jayson Werth (7/126 at age 32).

The Tigers are in a bit of a pickle. Their former GM Dave Dombrowski repeatedly sold away many of the team’s prospects for win-now opportunities and, for the most part, his trades worked out but a World Series title eluded the team and now its roster is starting to look eerily similar to the Philadelphia Phillies’ squad in 2012. Former superstars like Justin Verlander and even Miguel Cabrera (who is still great now but probably won’t be in 2023 when his current contract is up) will hamstring the organization in its efforts to win the World Series but that doesn’t mean Detroit won’t try to win in spite of the hefty contracts it owes – the team signed former Nationals star Jordan Zimmermann to a long-term deal back in November and then Upton on the 18th. While Jordan Zimmermann has regressed in the past year as all Nats fans can vouch for, he and Upton should immensely improve a Tigers team that finished last in the AL Central in 2015.

alcThe Tigers haven’t improved enough to challenge the Kansas City Royals for the division and I think they’re still worse than the pitching-heavy Cleveland Indians or the Chicago White Sox and their new 3B Todd Frazier but Detroit is probably a better team on paper than the Twins and they’ve put themselves firmly in the American League wildcard race.

Ultimately, the chances of Detroit playing baseball next October are pretty slim but they’re a hell of a lot better than they were at the start of the offseason and 2016 might be the roster’s best shot at finding a spot in the playoffs until 2020 or later. The team still has a ton of talent in Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, JD Martinez, Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler and Jordan Zimmermann and (former) aces in Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez but everything would have to go right for a Detroit playoff berth.