ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Justin Upton and the Los Angeles Angels have decided to stick together.
The star outfielder is staying with the club that acquired him with one month left in the regular season, agreeing to a $106 million, five-year contract on Thursday that adds one season and $17.5 million in guaranteed money.
Upton was owed $88.5 million over the next four seasons as part of a $132.75 million, six-year deal he signed with the Detroit Tigers. The Angels acquired him on Aug. 31 for their playoff push, but Los Angeles finished 80-82 and missed the postseason.
Upton had the right to opt out of that deal for free agency shortly after the World Series, and he likely would have been one of the most coveted offensive players on the market.
“We felt good about how well we knew him,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “Having him here for that month at the end of the season gave us a deeper look, and it gave him a deeper look at us. Both parties wanted to keep this union together, and we were able to do that.”
Upton is traveling outside the country, but he posted a statement on his Twitter account praising Eppler and Angels owner Arte Moreno.
“After talking with Billy Eppler several times it was evident to me that Arte and the whole organization is as committed to winning as I am and that was the biggest factor in my decision to come back,” Upton wrote. “I’m excited to get going and appreciate all the support I’ve received from Angels fans this offseason.”
Upton had career-highs of 35 homers and 109 RBIs last season while batting .273 with a .901 OPS. He is also a Gold Glove finalist in left field, giving the Angels three exceptional defensive outfielders alongside Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.
“Justin embodies our offensive philosophy, which is to get on base and hit the ball hard,” Eppler said. “He’s shown a knack for doing that, and he’s got the power and the on-base skills that we covet, as well as the character and the professional approach necessary to be a key member of our core moving forward.”
Eppler spoke with Upton and his representatives throughout October, and the talks intensified over the last four days with the end of the World Series looming. Even after being burned in the past by multiyear deals for veterans, the Angels didn’t hesitate to make a long-term commitment to the 30-year-old veteran.
“He’s got the skill set that we covet,” Eppler said. “The last year of that deal, he’ll be 34 years old. He’s somebody that we trust in his ability in the batter’s box, but also in his commitment to the game. … It’s somebody that you trust with the contract.”
Upton expected to be the solution to several years of underperformance for the Angels in left field, where Josh Hamilton leads a long list of veteran hitters who have disappointed Los Angeles at the position. The Angels made a long-term commitment to Upton during the same offseason in which Hamilton’s disastrous five-year contract ends, a deal that cost the Angels $103.8 million.
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