Guys, Justin Upton just posted a message on Instagram to Detroit Tigers fans, and I’m crying.
Never any fun saying goodbye to brotherhood, friendship, and a city you've grown to love. But thank you to my @tigers teammates, organization, and staff. And thank you to an awesome fan base for your support. Off to an exciting new Adventure in Anaheim. @sagreeney @i.kinsler3 @dixonmachado49 @miggy24 @mikiemahtook8 @awilsonw2
Out of nowhere, news came out that J-Up was headed to sunny California, in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher Grayson Long and a player to be named later. The Tigers also sent some cash over in the deal.
Upton came to the Tigers as a free agent in 2016 on a six-year deal worth $132 million. Initially, after the first couple of months, it looked like it was going to be a terrible contract. But since mid-way through the 2016 season, he’s returned to being one of the best hitters in baseball.
In his time with the club, J-Up was worth 5.5 fWAR, tallying four wins this year alone. As shown with his 138 wRC+, tied for 10th in the American League this season. His power was especially prevalent in 2017, with Upton slugging .542 — a career high.
His offensive resurgence made it more likely he would opt out of his contract at the end of the 2017 season. But since August trades for significant players are fairly rare, it was still a bit shocking to see him go. Yet, at the same time, good on Al Avila for recognizing a chance to gain some value instead of likely losing him for nothing. And, if you believe the speculation, good on J-Up for being up front on his opt-out intentions with the Tigers.
While his time was short with the Tigers, Upton made an impact on Detroit. Even on this rough season, his walk-offs won’t soon be forgotten. Especially in that 12-11 victory over the Minnesota Twins on August 12.