How Justin’s Upton and Verlander Shake Up the AL Playoff Hunt
Yesterday the Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world by finally doing something they should have done a year ago and entered full rebuild mode by trading superstars Justin Upton and Justin Verlander to the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros, respectively.
The move was a total salary dump for the Tigers. I wrote recently (in a post called ‘Blow Up The Tigers‘) about how Detroit was in dire straights because such a small number of players, who happened to be old and on the decline, ate up too much of their total payroll. By dumping most of Upton’s and Verlander’s salaries, the Tigers just freed up roughly the equivalent of a quarter of their payroll for new talent.
These trades will undoubtedly be followed by more as Detroit’s GM Al Avila continues to free up payroll and get younger, but I’m not interested in that right now. In making these trades, Avila inserted both Upton, a power hitting outfielder, and Verlander, a former MVP starter, into the middle of the AL playoff push.
First, let’s look at the Angels, an illogical upon first glance landing spot for Upton. For the first time in Mike Trout‘s already storied career, the Angels have a real shot at meaningful October baseball. Currently, they currently sit 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot despite not looking all that impressive on paper beyond Trout and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who is having a career year.
Despite 21 homer runs, middle of the order bat and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols has been having some seriously high profile struggles and many advanced metrics have him among the worst regular players in the league. In addition, CJ Cron, Kole Calhoun, Cliff Pennington, and the rest of the lineup don’t provide all that much fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.