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Justin Upton, Angels agree to 5-year , $106M contract to bypass opt-out

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The Angels made sure Justin Upton wasn’t just a rental acquisition by giving him a bigger contract than what he had.

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Justin Upton’s market was limited this past trade deadline, since the assumption was he would opt out of his deal this offseason. The Angels took a chance on him anyway with a trade in August, and while they didn’t get to the postseason with Upton in tow as they hoped, they’ll now have more chances to get there. That’s because to avoid having Upton opt out of his current contract, the Angels renegotiated his deal to add on another year and more money.

Bob Nightengale has the particulars: It’s a five-year deal to replace his old contract and will pay out $106 million over its lifespan. Upton had four years and $88.5 million left on his previous deal. Considering Upton will still be just 30 years old in 2018, that’s not a bad gamble at all — especially when you consider how good Upton was in 2017.

It took him some time to get going in the first year of his contract with the Tigers two summers ago, but he recovered and then continued to mash through this past summer. All told in 2017, Upton batted .273/.361/.540 with a career-high 35 homers, and this despite a move to a serious pitcher’s park in Los Angeles (of Anaheim).

Upton’s presence in the Angels lineup cannot be understated. For most of this past season, Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons were the only players hitting well. Trout was arguably the best hitter in baseball this year, and it wouldn’t be arguable if he hadn’t missed time with an injury. Simmons was only a little better than a league-average hitter but managed that at shortstop, where that kind of performance makes you a serious contributor.

The rest of the lineup? Straight garbage. C.J. Cron was their next-best hitter, except he was also the team’s first baseman, so his right-around-average performance was nowhere near enough for the position. Yunel Escobar helped out but didn’t stand out. Ben Revere, Albert Pujols, and Danny Espinosa were outright drags on the team, and replacements like Brandon Phillips didn’t change that equation.

Upton, though, continued to hit after his acquisition, and now the Angels can confidently go into 2018 knowing they have at least three quality bats in the lineup. If sticks like Cron and Kole Calhoun can recover their past forms, then even better for the Angels. The organization still needs to figure out what to do with Albert Pujols’ declining-but-expensive roster spot, but getting Upton back clears one major item off the winter checklist.

As for how this impacts the free agent market, the top left fielder expected to be available is now off the table before anyone even sat down at it. Right field still has Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez, and J.D. Martinez, and Martinez is probably a better fit in left if he moves to another NL team anyway, so options remain. However, the best combination of youth and talent on both sides of the ball isn’t an option any longer.