Detroit Tigers trade Justin Upton to L.A. Angels for pitching prospect

Justin Upton is on his way out of Detroit, and the Detroit Tigers are in rebuilding mode.

The Tigers on Thursday traded Upton to the L.A. Angels for right-handed pitching prospect Grayson Long and a player to be named later or cash considerations, just hours before the 11:59 p.m. waiver trade deadline.

The Tigers announced the move in a news release. It was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Vertical

Upton, the power-hitting leftfielder, has been a bright spot on a poor Tigers team this season. He's hitting .279 with 28 homers and 94 RBIs.

He is owed nearly $90 million over the remaining life of his contract, which expires in 2021, and he makes just over $22 million per season. The departure signals a clear rebuild for a franchise that entered the season with one of the league's highest payrolls but didn't come close to contending for a playoff spot.

The Tigers (58-74) entered Thursday in fourth place in the American League Central, 18 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians. 

Tigers general manager Al Avila hinted at a rebuild in a letter to season-ticket holders earlier this week, saying "2017 has been frustrating for all of us in the organization" and "we have committed to spending and investing significant resources in player development."

Though Upton could stay with the Angels beyond this season, he also could test the free agent market.

From the perspective of the Tigers, Upton’s deal was a no-brainer. The franchise still has a number of big-money contracts on the books – a few of them undesirable – and though some in the organization felt the team could rebuild quickly, that opinion was not backed by much optimism. Without Upton, the team receives nearly $90 million in salary relief – though they likely would have received that anyways if Upton opted out of his contract at the end of the season, like many expected.

In getting something in return, the Tigers selected Long, 23, who was the Angels’ third-round pick out of Texas A&M in the 2015 draft. He advanced to Double-A this season and has posted a 2.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, with 111 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings.

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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