Less than 24 hours after the Houston Astros won a decisive Game 7 of the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim wasted no time making their blueprint on this upcoming offseason.
Justin Upton, whom the Angels acquired on the last day of the waiver trade deadline on August 31st, will remain in Anaheim for 5 more years.
Upton had 4 years and 88.5 million dollars remaining on his original deal that the Detroit Tigers handed him before 2016 but his opt out had many speculating he’d explore free agency. Instead, the Angels and Upton essentially added on an extra year to his current deal, dropping his Annual Average Value(AAV) from 22 million to 21.2 million.
This move doesn’t come as a huge shocker, given the Angels gave up 2 solid pitching prospects in Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez to acquire Upton. Watching him leave in free agency after only keeping him for a grand total of 27 games wouldn’t have been ideal.
While the Angels were unsuccessful in making the playoffs, Upton pulled his weight, hitting .245/.357/.531 in his 115 plate appearances with the Angels. Upton’s 2017 season in general in was a huge success, as he set a career high with a .540 slugging percentage and posted the 2nd best fWAR(Fangraphs WAR), with a 5.0 mark, and bWAR(Baseball Reference WAR), with a 5.7 mark.
While Upton’s 2017 season was a big success, it’s probably fair to question if he’ll sustain that production. Nothing in his peripheral numbers changed much, with his walk rate, contact rate, fly ball rate and home run/fly ball ratio not differing from his career norms. He even saw his average exit velocity drop from 91.4 mph in 2016 to 88.8 mph in 2017. Like many players in 2017, Upton’s improvements may be due to the “juiced” baseballs that soared over fences at record rates this season.
Even if he does regress back to his career norms, Upton is a 3-3.5 win player who consistently posts well above average offensive numbers, plays good defense in left field and runs well. At 30 years old, there’s likely a few more productive season left in the tank before he starts seeing some sort of decline. For the Angels, Upton’s high floor/high upside combination is very welcomed.
With no real outfield prospects on the horizon outside of Michael Hermosillo, Upton fills a hole that desperately needed to be plugged. With left field and the #3/4 spot in the lineup filled, the Angels will now have to address the other elephants in the room, namely a new third baseman, second baseman and several pitchers. Luckily, Angels General Manager Billy Eppler created some flexibility with this new deal.
Upton will only make 16 million dollars in 2018, with incremental raises coming each following year until he makes 28 million dollars in 2022. This is advantageous for the Angels as they try to fit more talent into the 2018-2020 window, the last 3 years Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons are under club control for.
Even with this signing, the Angels are looking at roughly 30-35 million dollars to spend per year on new players. This signing shows the Angels view 2018 as a competitive year and with a few more splashes, the team could be a real threat to compete for a playoff spot in 2018. With this being just the first day of the offseason, there’s plenty more to expect the rest of this Hot Stove Season.