Posted on August 31, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Blockbuster trades at the end of August are rare, but the Los Angeles Angels appear to have pulled one off. The Angels have reached an agreement with the Detroit Tigers to acquire outfielder Justin Upton. The Tigers will receive minor league pitcher Grayson Long and possibly a player to be named later as well. More importantly, Upton is going to the Angels in a move that could shake up the American League wild card race.
Upton is in the midst of perhaps his finest big league season. He’s currently hitting .279 with an OPS of .904. Upton has hit 28 home runs this year, putting him on pace to break his career-high of 31. He also has 37 doubles, meaning he’ll likely break his career-high of 39 at some point in September.
With one month left in the regular season, Upton drastically changes the appearance of the Los Angeles outfield. He is likely to step in as the every day left fielder alongside Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun. More importantly, Upton will help to provide protection for Trout in the lineup, something the Angels have lacked all season.
Despite missing six weeks with a thumb injury, Trout is having an MVP caliber season. However, Andrelton Simmons has the second highest OPS on the team at .787, showcasing how little support Trout has received from his teammates this year. The presence of Upton in the lineup, likely behind Trout in the batting order, has a chance to change that during the final month of the season.
The Angels began Thursday one game behind the Twins for the second wild-card spot. They are just two games behind the Yankees for the top wild-card spot. Adding an impact player like Upton for the final month of the season has a chance to put them over the top and into the postseason.
Upton comes to the Angels with four years and $88.5 million left on his contract. That’s a heavy commitment to take on, and also why the Tigers were willing to part with Upton for a modest pitching prospect. However, Upton has the right to opt out of his contract after the season and hit the free agent market. Thus, the Angels are either taking on a massive contract or only getting Upton’s services for only one month.
Based on the season he’s had, Upton may end up opting out. He would likely be one of the best players available on the free agent market along with former Tigers teammate J.D. Martinez. Based on reports, Upton told the Tigers he was leaning toward opting out, accelerating trade talks. He has not told the Angels one way or the other. However, Detroit’s upcoming rebuild was part of the reason, a factor that may not be there with the Angels.
Meanwhile, with Upton coming to Los Angeles, the Angels placed Cameron Maybin on revocable waivers. Maybin was claimed by the Houston Astros, and the Angels decided to let him go. The Astros are now on the hook for Maybin’s remaining salary. But they don’t have to send the Angels any compensation.
Maybin is tied with new teammate Jose Altuve for the most stolen bases in the American League. However, he’s had a disappointing season offensively. Of course, with rookie Derek Fisher struggling to establish himself as Houston’s every day left fielder, it could be worthwhile to take a chance on Maybin. If nothing else, Maybin gives the Astros more speed and added depth in their outfield.
Of course, Upton going to the Angels is the biggest story of the day. The Astros have long locked up a postseason spot, for all intents and purposes. But the Angels are fighting every day to earn a playoff spot. Adding Upton may be exactly what they need to make that happen.