Detroit Tigers Could Go Even More “All-In” With Justin Upton


Sep. 29, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton (10) stands at bat during the game against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

We said it when the Detroit Tigers signed Price Fielder to the monster deal last offseason. We said it again when they traded top pitching and catching prospects Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly mid-season for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, and we said it again when they signed Torii Hunter and re-signed Sanchez this offseason.

The Tigers, along with owner Mike Ilitch, have gone “all-in” in their pursuit of a World Series Championship.

Of course, this isn’t really the case. Going all-in means you’ve pushed your entire stack of chips in boom-or-bust fashion. The Tigers have certainly put many of their chips at stake so far, but not all of them. They still have Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia, two prospects who likely won’t contribute much of anything at the major league level this season, and they probably haven’t maxed out that fourth credit card.

The organization certainly could sell what’s left of the farm and increase the payroll even further — putting themselves on the edge of their own fiscal cliff — to increase their 2013 and 2014 World Series odds even further. Chris made the case early in the offseason that “going all-in” would have included signing Josh Hamilton. It would have been a deal that would look horrible in the long-term, but it would have, could have paid dividends in the short term. Right now “going all-in” would be doing what it takes to acquire Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks are “looking to trade an outfielder” after their recent signing of Cody Ross. It’s been said that they would prefer to move Jason Kubel, but it has always sounded like they’d be willing to move Upton for the right return package. That would, of course, likely include Nick Castellanos, but that’s what truly going “all-in” means. Upton would bring a plus outfield glove and an above-average bat and would solve the right-field platoon situation by simply stealing the job away from Andy Dirks.

Upton isn’t all that expensive from a dollars standpoint; he’ll make $9 million this upcoming season and then $14.5 million the following two years. That’s a lot of money, don’t get me wrong, but he’d be getting paid to produce something like 8 WAR over three years — a mark he could possibly double. The expensive part would be in snagging him from Arizona, we all know that. They’re aware that he’s young and valuable and, despite all the trade talk this off-season, they’re not going to give him away for anything less than a top prospect (plus others).

Would that be worth it to the Tigers? That depends. It would increase their World Series odds a few points, and winning a ring would make almost any move worth it, but it could severely limit the potential of future Tigers teams. It’s not necessarily a move that I would recommend from a long-term organizational health perspective, but it would certainly be a fun move. I still wouldn’t say that they’d be truly “all-in”, but they’d be closer to that then they are now.