The Detroit Tigers mix up that Motown and Upton Funk

The Detroit Tigers swooped in and made their traditional big January splash. Still pending the physical and official confirmation from the Tigers, it appears that Justin Upton is the newest Detroit slugger in what has become a pretty potent lineup for the past decade.

The deal is a six-year, $132-million contract with an opt-out after year two. So what’s the skinny on the deal?

The Good: You have to be blind to not see the good in the Upton deal. Upton will join Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez in the heart of a now very scary lineup. Who do you not pitch to?

I would imagine that Upton should bat third. Upton had the “worst year” of his career last season, slashing .251/.336/.454 with 26 home runs in the unfriendly confines of PetCo Park. That would put Miggy — who has won the batting title in four of the past five seasons — in the clean-up slot. That’s scary.

The Tigers could also keep the the same three-four hitters as last year. That would keep Miggy in the three-hole and slide Upton into the five-hole behind Martinez. Martinez (38 home runs and 102 RBI in 2015) is quietly becoming one of the league’s premier outfielders since coming to Detroit two years ago.  The options and flexibility the Tigers have in their lineup now is frightening.

Whatever they chose to do, they have an explosive heart of the lineup with an average age of 29. The addition of Upton gives their offense a very nice blend of youth (Jose Iglesias, James McCann, Nick Castellanos, and now-likely fourth outfielder Anthony Gose are all 25-years or younger) with the veteran big bats of Ian Kinsler (33), Miggy (32) and Victor Martinez (36).

The new offense should also give all the run support the revamped pitching staff needs. Justin Verlander showed signs that he can return to a top of the rotation pitcher last season, although I don’t think he will ever be lights-out-Cy Young Verlander again. Jordan Zimmerman was brought in on a five-year, $110-million deal and he provides a solid one-two punch.

They also improved the bullpen with K-Rod. Rodriguez has recorded 82 saves over the past few seasons and if the flame-throwing Bruce Rondon can get his head together, the back of the Tigers bullpen — aka their Achilles heel, aka  where closers go to die — could be lethal.

The Tigers are set up to compete in a very tight AL Central with — as weird as it sounds — the best team in baseball in the Kansas City Royals.

The Bad: How could snagging one of the best all-around outfielders in the game be bad? It appeared that Upton was destined for a short-term deal, destined to hit the free agency market again next year. The Tigers got their man, and they locked him up for six years, right?

Kind of.

That opt-out clause after two years has to have Tigers fans worried. Upton will have the option to become a free agent after the 2017 season. Think about it.

Jason Heyward inked an eight-year, $184-million deal. He can opt out as well after 2018. Jason Heyward people. If that’s the going price for Heyward NOW, what will the going price for someone arguably better than Heyward two years from now?

Should Upton reach new career highs — which shouldn’t be hard batting near Miggy and Martinez in a loaded lineup — why would he not hit the free agency market heading into 2018? He will be the best outfielder on the market and he will be only 30-years old. He could go ahead and sign a new six-year deal for a heck of a lot more.

It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a great deal for both Upton and the Tigers. The Tigers are only sacrificing a third round pick to the Padres (remember, Upton did reject the Pads qualifying offer) which is nothing for one of the elite, young power hitting outfielders in the game. They have gone out and put together one of the more impressive offseasons in the MLB and have become much stronger than the team that seemingly fell apart last season.

The Tigers have put themselves back into contention for the AL crown with this deal. Upton will spice up that lineup. It’s simply a matter of how long he does it.



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