Tigers sign Justin Upton to fill left field position

Evan Smyth, Staff Writer

During last season’s trade deadline, the Detroit Tigers traded star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The team may have had intentions of bringing him back, but he decided he would stay with the Mets. With a gaping hole in the outfield, the Tigers have signed Justin Upton to a six-year deal worth $132.75 million.

Coming off of a rough 74-87 record and losing players due to the trade deadline or free agency, the Tigers need to choose: rebuild for the future or retool for another playoff push.

With the signing of Upton, it is clear that they are retooling. Upton just came off a year that included an All-Star game and 26 home runs, two things that Tyler Collins can’t say about himself. Detroit has been looking for the final piece for their outfield since Cespedes left and finally, the wait is over.

With the emergence of J.D. Martinez as one of the best young stars in the game, the speedy Cameron Maybin and now Upton, the Tigers’ are now ready to take on the Royals that took over the AL Central while the Tigers retooled.

Upton’s effect to the team may make them a threat again. Upton has three years of playoff experience so he is not new to postseason ball, which will prove helpful if the team is looking for an October push. He also brings some pop at the top or even the bottom of the lineup. The bottom is easily the weakest point for the Tigers and Upton will provide the spark they need. Imagine the lineup: Maybin, Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez, Upton, Castellanos, McCann and Iglesias. This is a big improvement from the lineup that finished last season.

The first month of the season will be a great test of whether or not the Tigers are legit. March features the revamped Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the rising force that is the Astros and the Royals. Fifteen of their first 24 games are against teams with a record over .500 last year. If they win 17 or 18 games in March, they will be on a good pace for the rest of the season that will be tough with the rising of the Indians and Twins.

The Tigers are no doubt on the rise, but will the addition of Upton put them over the hump they haven’t been able to overcome? Upton carries a big stick that doesn’t come at the cost of poor fielding, a big jump from what they have had in past years. In signing Upton they keep him away from the Royals who were also pursuing him which is always a plus. By signing Upton, Detroit now has the weapons to at least get back to .500.

The recurring problem with the Tigers is their salary, and Upton’s $22,125,000 base contract won’t help. It is okay to pay the big money for elite talent like Cabrera and Verlander, but some argue that Upton isn’t elite. At the age of 27, he is just entering his prime, and his 2011 season featuring 31 home runs and 6.1 wins above replacement, proving he is capable of playing at an elite level.

Ultimately, Upton’s effect will be determined by how Brad Ausmus uses him. But no matter how he is used, the Detroit Tigers latest addition is one that will help the team get back to winning their division.