The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim didn’t even wait until 24 hours after the end of the World Series to take care of their most pressing offseason need. They re-signed Justin Upton, who had an opt-out in his contract after this season he seemed likely to use, to a five-year deal.
— Angels (@Angels) November 2, 2017
The contract will replace the final four years left on Upton’s deal, and will pay him $106 million over the life of the contract.
Justin Upton’s deal with the Angels worth $106 million.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 2, 2017
Upton had $88 million left on the final four years of his deal, so he picked up an extra $18 million for one year by sacrificing the opt-out. The contract’s structure also works out pretty well for the Angels – it’s a backloaded deal, meaning they’ll save $6 million this year, $4 million in 2019, and $1 million in 2020, eventually paying Upton an extra $1 million (up to $23 million) in 2021, and a full $28 million in 2022, the final year of his new contract.
Albert Pujols is still signed through 2021, making $114 million over the last four years of his deal. Mike Trout is inked through the 2020 season, and will make $34 million in each of his last three years. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is also signed through 2020 at a total cost of $39 million (which is an insane deal for the Angels), while Anaheim’s third outfielder, Kole Calhoun, can make as much as $33 million over the next three seasons (assuming a 2020 club option is exercised).
The Angels’ offseason isn’t done – nor should it be. After all, last season, they had just one pitcher qualify for the ERA title (Ricky Nolasco, who “contributed” a 4.92 ERA and has a $1 million buyout on a $13 million club option for 2018) and another three (Parker Bridwell, Jesse Chavez, JC Ramirez) cross the 100 inning mark. Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs combined to make just 54 starts last season, and Meyer is already out for the 2018 season following shoulder surgery.
The bullpen is in decent shape, though Chavez, Bud Norris, and Yusmeiro Petit, all of whom logged significant innings and pitched pretty well, are free agents. Deposed closer Huston Street, who threw just four innings, will also likely be a free agent thanks to a $1 million buyout on a $10 million club option. Despite those losses, Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, and Blake Parker will all be back.
But getting Upton’s contract done so quickly really places the focus on rebuilding that pitching staff, and ensures the Angels won’t need to get into a bidding war for a bat to slot in the middle of the lineup behind Trout. The Angels could still use another infielder or two, given that Yunel Escobar, Cliff Pennington, and Brandon Phillips are all free agents, but none had standout years and won’t be tough to adequately replace.
The AL West is a weird place right now. The newly-crowned World Champion Houston Astros seem poised to dominate the division for years – and they were the lone team in the division to finish above .500 in 2017. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers both had disappointing years and finished just behind the Angels in the standings, but neither seems poised to lose many significant contributors in free agency this offseason. The Oakland Athletics actually performed above expectations in 2017 following a 75-87 season, but are a perpetually rebuilding blank canvas that will be tough to label in 2018 and beyond.
I don’t think the Angels are one of the four best teams in the American League. However, they are near the top of the pack in the crowded crop of teams vying for the second AL Wild Card spot. And if the Angels want to make the most of Mike Trout’s prime, they need to surround him with the best possible collection of players they can – and Upton is an ideal fit, given the decline in performance Pujols has gone through in recent years.