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Thursday, March 01, 2018

A conversation with the Angels’ Justin Upton: On hitting, stats, and the end of free-agent courting – The Athletic

Here’s an extremely interesting interview with Justin Upton. I doubt his perspective is unique.

Jim Furtado Posted: March 01, 2018 at 09:11 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, justin upton, pay site, the athletic

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   1. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 02, 2018 at 12:08 PM (#5633073)
Upton: Every team wants you at their price. I’ll say this, and I don’t give a #### if you write it or not: I had a stretch in free agency where, within a week, every team called and offered me a one-year deal. After eight years of pretty good baseball. In my mind, that’s really, really, really sketchy and weird.

How many teams?

Upton: It was somewhere between seven and 10 teams I heard about from my agent. It’s like, a one-year deal? I feel like I’ve done pretty damn good. Maybe I should shut it down.

   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 02, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5633077)
Every team wants you at their price.

Shocking, I know.
   3. Internet Commenter Posted: March 02, 2018 at 12:59 PM (#5633118)
When Upton was traded to the Angels, it was his fifth team in six years and he was productive every stop along the way. My guess is there's something that Upton isn't telling us as to why MLB teams weren't falling over themselves to court him.
   4. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: March 02, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5633146)
"MLB teams are colluding": Bah! Preposterous!

"MLB teams all hired the same consultants that all advised them to use the same models and follow the same strategy": Sure, of course, that's what you do in business
   5. Walt Davis Posted: March 02, 2018 at 04:41 PM (#5633216)
5 teams in 6 years means he's a player desired by lots of teams who has also been on a reasonable (or even cheaper) contract his entire career. AZ got him to sign away his first two FA years. With 3/$39 left on that deal and coming off a 81-81 season, they traded him and Chris Johnson to the Braves for 5 players. They saved a chunk of money and all four of the prospects in that deal made the majors. (I suppose Delgado was no longer technically a prospect.)

The Braves kept him for two of those three years, winning the NL East in 2013 then falling below 500 in 2014. They decided to rebuild and Upton was one of their most valuable trade chits at 1/$14.5. It's just one year, you're not going to get a lot and the Braves were making kinda funny deals at that time -- the centerpiece was Max Fried, a former pitching prospect who was hurt ... he's never really made it back to form but did make the majors last year ... and they also got Mallex Smith who's still in the majors.

Then he was a FA who signed with Detroit in their last gasp. A change of FO led to a change in strategy and they went into rebuild mode. Upton was one month away from an option and unlikely to want to stick around through some terrible seasons so they got what they could for him (not much).

This is simply the way of modern baseball. When they can, teams take advantage of their years of control to leverage good young players into buyouts of their early FA years. Over the course of the 6 years covered by the deal, the DBacks personnel, performance and strategy of course will change and, even if performing to expectation, they guy they extended 3-4 years ago may no longer fit. He's valuable, they trade him. Then, he's approaching FA and every team with a player one year from FA assesses whether they think they can compete this year and, if not, considers trading away the last year or two of their pending FAs. Then they sign the long-term FA deal and again team conditions can often change -- also options have changed this landscape somewhat in that the Tigers didn't have another 3 years of Upton, they had another month. The Angels didn't hesitate to give Upton an extra year at the same price to keep him.

Justin Upton keeps changing teams because he keeps finding himself on teams that are or think they are good but then, 2-3 years later, decide to rebuild. Other than a very limited no-trade clause in that first extension (4 teams), Upton had no control over how many teams he might play for. He chose to go to Detroit but could only get another limited no-trade clause (pretty good at 20 teams). He did get the right to make a decision about who to play for again after 2017 and Detroit decided it probably wouldn't be for them. This time he's chosen to play for the Angels.

Rather than looking at 5 teams in 6 years and for some reason blaming the player who has little control over where he plays, maybe we should go to the more obvious conclusion that 5 teams in 6 years is due to unstable teams changing GMs or erratic GMs changing their strategies every two years or GMs having short-term strategies built around 2-3 year windows then (they or the new GM) trading off what they can.
   6. Lassus Posted: March 02, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5633222)
When Upton was traded to the Angels, it was his fifth team in six years and he was productive every stop along the way. My guess is there's something that Upton isn't telling us as to why MLB teams weren't falling over themselves to court him.

My inside info from the period when I was able to get inside info (when working for replay in 2008-2010) was simply gossip from on-field folks that he and his brother were complete ######## that nobody really liked.
   7. Internet Commenter Posted: March 02, 2018 at 11:19 PM (#5633291)
They decided to rebuild and Upton was one of their most valuable trade chits at 1/$14.5. It's just one year, you're not going to get a lot and the Braves were making kinda funny deals at that time

If there wasn't an issue with Upton, why didn't some team beat San Diego's offer? Or why didn't the Braves try to build around him? He was going into his age-27 season in 2015 and coming off his best year since 2011. The Padres were so enthralled with Justin that they chose to give his job to Melvin in 2016, rather than sign the All-Star who was their best player in 2015 and was going into his age-28 season.

Justin Upton keeps changing teams because he keeps finding himself on teams that are or think they are good but then, 2-3 years later, decide to rebuild.

Arizona traded him a month after they signed Cody Ross. They weren't rebuilding; they didn't want him.

I count three teams that chose an inferior option in the outfield instead of keeping Upton's reasonable contract or trying to extend him. I see him being traded three times for ever-dimishing returns despite his affordable deals.

It isn't the "way of baseball" for multiple teams to walk away from guys in their mid-20s with Upton's combination of pedigree and production.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: March 03, 2018 at 07:08 PM (#5633418)
The Braves traded Upton for the same reasons they traded Heyward and Kimbrel that same offseason (also Gattis in a less suprising move) and Simmons the next -- to get what value they could and to save money. It's what teams do now as everybody knows. Why didn't the Braves take one last shot with Upton and Heyward before they became FAs? You'd have to ask John Hart.

Why didn't any team beat SD's offer? Because it was a pretty good offer for one year of Upton. We've seen what good not great players go for with .5 to 1 year left on their contracts -- not massive returns. The Braves got a former 1st round pick coming back from TJS and a solid prospect in Mallex Smith. Their gamble on Fried didn't work out so well so far but he's back in the top 100 prospects. They got much less baseball value in return for Kimbrel, maybe a little less than what they got for 3 years of Simmons (Newcomb > Fried but Smith>nothing) ... they did pretty well in the Heyward trade.

And yes, after suffering through the horrible AJ Preller offseason in which he pursued expensive vets (increasing payroll by $18 M, 20%) and traded about 15 catchers in an effort to build an instant winner only to go 74-88, decided to change directions, cut payroll by $10 M then a further $30 M and decided not to beat Detroit's offer. Really difficult to understand, never seen anything like it before.

The Padres are an excellent example of erratic GM behavior. That offseason he traded for:

Matt Kemp (and C Tim Federowicz) giving up Grandal (a C)
Derek Norris (a C) giving up Jesse Hahn
Wil Myers and Ryan Hanigan (a C) giving up Trea Turner, Joe Ross and Jake Bauers
Justin Upton in probably his only good trade
Will Middlebrooks giving up Hanigan (a C)
Brandon Maurer giving up Seth Smith
Kimbrel and the dead money of Melvin Upton giving up Wisler, Maybin and the dead money of Carlos Quentin
Signed James Shields
Signed Wil Nieves (a C)

That team went 74-88 and completely changed strategy. Upton and Ian Kennedy were major FAs, far as I know they made little/no attempt to sign either one. They traded Kimbrel, Yonder Alonso (a good trade), Jedd Gyorko (looked OK at the time but didn't work out), They signed no important FAs ... I'm not sure they signed anybody for more than $2 M. Because of the bloated remaining contracts (Kemp, Shields, M Upton to start), payroll only dropped $10 M despite getting rid of about $40 M among Upton, Kennedy and Kimbrel. They managed to offload much of Shields on the White Sox in June and bits of M Upton, Cashner and Kemp at the deadline.

The 2016 Padres would have let a 28-year-old Roberto Clemente walk if they had him. How Preller still has a job (much less received an extension!) presumably involves goat sacrifices or salacious photos of the owner.

The Braves GM who traded Upton was Hart who was there to train Coppolella (or whatever his name was) who is banned from baseball for life -- yeah, clearly the problem there was Justin Upton.

Then he signed with Detroit under first-year GM Alex Avila. Avila was in the process of trying to give Illitch one last winner I suppose, boosting payroll from $172 to $198 that offseason. They signed Upton and Zimmermann (oops), some lower-level "name" guys (Rajai Davis, Salty), traded for K-Rod. That team went 83-78. Arguably they should have seen the writing on the wall and started a rebuild then but instead they did nothing that offseason (one way or the other).

This past year they began the rebuild process, trading Upton, Verlander, JDM, Avila. This offseason they traded Kinsler. B-R estimates current payroll at $142 which is lousy but a lot better than last year's $198. And again, all they were trading was one month of Upton, you simply don't get much return in that situation. But there at least one can wonder why didn't the Yanks, Cubs, Nats, etc. beat that offer to improve their WS chances? Possibly because they were afraid Upton wouldn't opt out from them and didn't want the long-term salary commitment.

Teams trade for vets or sign vet FAs to win. When they don't win, they often change strategies quickly these days. When they decide to rebuild and cut payroll, they trade off their best assets. When those best assets are already at market price (Verlander, Stanton, Kimbrel), they don't get fabulous return. They pretty much always trade players with 1 year of control or less (Heyward, JD Martinez) again usually not getting fabulous returns. They frequently trade away players with years of control left (Simmons, Yelich) precisely because they're valuable.

Upton has been caught in rebuilds three times now (Atl, SD, Det). In Atl and essentially in Det, he was in the last year of his contract so obviously he was going to be traded and not generate much return. That's got nothing to do with his personality, charming or otherwise. The only one of those teams he had the choice of playing for was Det and, as I mentioned, at the time they increased payroll by $26 M to $200, signed Zimmermann, had Miggy and Verlander, Kinsler, Sanchez and VMart and would have looked to many observers as a competitive team which they kinda were, missing the WC by 2.5 games.

It's not clear what AZ was doing -- it was Towers' next to last year when he traded Upton but they didn't make any other major rebuild moves that offseason. But the next offseason he traded Adam Eaton for far less return. He picked up Ahmed in the Upton trade but he already had Gregorius and Owings -- Stewart made a nice trade of Gregorius after replacing Towers. Towers didn't make a lot of big moves his last couple of years in AZ but the ones he made weren't very good. Maybe it was just a sub-par trade.

AZ did have a ton of OF in those days. The starters in 2012 were Kubel, Young and Upton ... but they also had Parra, Eaton and Pollock on the way. Plus Inciarte (not sure anybody was expecting that at the time) and they made that great trade of Eaton for Trumbo a year later. Oops I missed one, they traded Young the same offseason as they traded Upton. They also traded Kubel in 2013. Was it a beer and chicken fest in the AZ OF in 2012? Or were they just run-of-the-mill baseball trades?

But sure, maybe he didn't get along with manager Kirk Gibson -- did anybody? Maybe he kicked dirt on Julio Teheran's shoes. Maybe he called Kemp an overpaid bum. Maybe he laughed when JD Martinez predicted he'd get 6/$180 in FA. Those are all much more likely explanations of transactions of assets worth millions of dollars than "given the team's financial and competitive situation, we have decided it is prudent to sell off (or not pay to retain) one of our assets with value."

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