Monday, January 18, 2016

Hot Stove Update: Tigers Sign Justin Upton

In somewhat of a surprise move, the Detroit Tigers signed Justin Upton and not Yoenis Cespedes to a 6 year/$132.75 M contract.  The contract is a simple even split of $22.125 M per season for all 6 seasons.    There is an opt-out clause after 2 years and a partial no-trade. The contract covers Upton's age 28-33 seasons, most of which should be in the prime of his career.

I guess I've never been a huge Justin Upton fan.  I've just seen him mess up too many plays on the OF due to what looks like a nonchalant approach to his game.  On the other hand, the man does show up to play as he has put up well over 600 PA's in all of his last 5 seasons.  After an up and down first few years, he's settled into being a reliable 3-4 fWAR player good for 20+ HR's and 15+ SB with subpar D on the OF.  If you are willing to put up with the D, he brings solid production to the lineup.  The Tigers should get their money's worth out of the deal and might even get surplus production given the age range the contract covers.  The Tigers OF will be Upton in RF, a platoon of Cam Maybin and Anthony Gose in CF with JD Martinez in LF.

You have to think Cespedes will get a contract somewhere in this range, probably within the next week now that Upton and Chris Davis are both off the market.


  1. I bet Blanco might be fairly close to Upton in WAR if anyone ever let him start and he could put up 600+ PAs a season. Of all OFer's with 1500+ PAs from the time Blanco got to the Giants:

    #20 Justin Upton 2532 PAs .321 BAPIP .266BA .347OBP .460SLG 123wRC+ 12.7 WAR
    #33 Gregor Blanco 1780 PAs .324 BAPIP .264BA .343OBP .367SLG 105wRC+ 9.5 WAR

    2532/1780 Upton has 142% of Blanco's PAs. Yet has only managed 133% of Blanco's WAR.

    Blanco's in mostly defense and okay hitting. Upton's defense is pretty meidocre (though not Michael Morse or Jeff Kemp bad) and he makes his living hitting the ball hard. That might be good at first base. That might be good in small park. But I'd take Blanco over Upton any day of the week, as a starter, for the Giants.

    I think, and I was as guilty of not recognizing it as anyone until I looked at the numbers honestly, that Blanco is good enough to start for the Giants and deserves that opportunity.

    1. Yup, you give Blanco those 625 PA's every year over the past 4 years and you have a player who is just as valuable as Justin Upton has been in the same stretch, maybe a bit more. Blanco is starting to get to an age where it could start to regress though, so we'll see if he can kick it for another year.

    2. While I don't disagree that Blanco had been as valuable, I don't think he's as good a player as Upton. That power threat is real and while he's not great defensively, Pence ain't exactly a GG, OF and we love him. I'd rather have Upton than Span in a vacuum but we needed a CF more. We win the WS with a hitter in LF not some slap hitter.

    3. It all depends on how much you trust defensive metrics and how much you think defense contributes to winning. I agree that defensive metrics are somewhat unreliable for 1 year, but over a 4 year period, if they show a significant difference in value between two players, then the difference is probably real.

      Over the past 4 seasons Justin Upton has accumulated 12.5 fWAR in a total of 2523 PA's which comes out to 3.06 fWAR/600 PA's.

      In the same time period, Gregor Blanco had accumulated 9.5 fWAR in a total of 1780 PA's which comes out to a 3.18 fWAR/600 PA's.

      When normalized to equal playing time, Blanco gives essentially equal overall value toward winning games.

      Again, you can argue with the validity of the numbers if you want, but that's what the numbers show. Yeah, it's fun to dream about all those dingers and the Ribeyes they will produce, but if you add in what happens o the other side of the ball, Blanco saves as many extra runs and Upton produces.

    4. Signing guys to hit dingers and play poor defense is not a value proposition at AT&T Park. The place plays to the opposite type - suppressing the power element & increasing the importance of the defensive factors for everyone on the field.

      Why focus on players whose skill sets are literally depressed in their home field? Not to mention the rest of the division whose parks play often the same. Upton is a good player, but factoring in the years, moneys, and the fact the Giants have 2 clear prospect options at the corner OF position and exactly ZERO in CF, they by far played to their strengths grabbing top flight CF Span. The only risk is the injury & I think they made a very solid gamble on that front..

  2. Regardless of numbers, I didn't want Upton and I'm glad we didn't end up with him. I lived in AZ while he was a D'Back, and there was constant talk about him as an 'attitude problem'. While it was just rumors, the sheer volume of them over several years convinced me that there was an issue. No one on the team seemed unhappy when he was traded away.
    And he does obviously slack in the field often. Not a "Giant" type player.