Source: Tigers reach 6-year deal with Justin Upton
In this Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, San Diego Padres left fielder Justin Upton looks to hit in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
DETROIT (AP) — The Tigers have agreed to a $132.75 million, six-year contract with free-agent outfielder Justin Upton, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
The person spoke Monday night on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced. The deal was pending a physical, and Upton can opt out after two seasons.
The 28-year-old Upton gives the Tigers another powerful bat in the middle of the lineup and fills a need in left field after Detroit dealt slugger Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline last year. Upton hit .251 with 26 homers and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season.
It was another big move for the Tigers, who are coming off a last-place finish in 2015 but signed right-hander Jordan Zimmermann earlier this offseason. Detroit also traded for closer Francisco Rodriguez, but it was unclear how high the Tigers would be willing to increase a payroll that also includes big commitments to Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez and Ian Kinsler.
The expensive agreement with Upton could put Detroit in a position to challenge World Series champion Kansas City, which dominated the AL Central last year after the Tigers had won the division the previous four seasons.
It also would increase Detroit's projected luxury tax payroll to $187 million for its currently signed players, approaching the $189 million threshold where the tax begins.
Detroit traded Cespedes and David Price at the deadline, and then let general manager Dave Dombrowski go. Al Avila was promoted to Dombrowski's spot, and he has been aggressive in his first offseason in charge.
Upton has played his entire nine-year career so far in the National League. He was traded from Arizona to Atlanta before the 2013 season, and the Padres acquired him from the Braves before last season. Upton has surpassed 25 homers in five of the last seven seasons.
Detroit is now set to enter next season with plenty of power at the corner outfield spots — right fielder J.D. Martinez hit 38 homers last year. If Cabrera can stay healthy after missing 43 games in 2015, the Tigers could have a formidable offense.
As reports of Upton's deal began circulating on social media, a message of approval showed up on Verlander's Twitter account.
"Well that escalated quickly! #gotigers," he said.
The Tigers are hoping for a big season from Verlander after the 32-year-old right-hander pitched well down the stretch. Pitching was a big part of Detroit's downfall last year, but if Verlander and Sanchez can improve on their 2015 showings, the Tigers could have an impressive rotation with the addition of Zimmermann. In addition to Rodriguez, Detroit also acquired relievers Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson as part of its offseason bullpen makeover.