Detroit — New Tigers left fielder Justin Upton, now with his fourth team in what will be his 10th season, talked about growing some roots and making a home in Detroit, as you might expect from a player who just signed a six-year deal worth $132.75 million.
But, the elephant in the room during his introductory press conference Wednesday was the opt-out clause he negotiated into the contract, which will allow him to enter free agency again in two years.
“He’s 28 years old and we felt like, consistent with the market, he should warrant a seven- or eight-year contract,” said Larry Reynolds, Upton’s agent. “When it came down to it, we offered two scenarios. The second scenario, which they obviously took, was the opt-out.
“But the intent is not to get out of a contract. It’s just something we felt we had to do.”
Opt-out clauses have become standard operating procedure in baseball negotiations. And, as general manager Al Avila pointed out, it’s not necessarily a losing proposition for the club.
“When he suggested the opt-out, I had no problem with it,” Avila said. “Obviously, I didn’t want the opt-out after the first year and I probably would have preferred it after the third year. But the second year makes sense.
“He comes in and has two good years here, maybe things change and he has that benefit (of opting out). We may have the benefit of a draft pick coming back (if he signed with another team) if it came to that. But I don’t think any of us here did this deal thinking it would be a two-year deal.”
Reynolds, though, admitted that it is rare for a player not to exercise an opt-out clause.
“Opt-outs generally are in there and people will exercise them,” he said. “But we wanted to emphasize that it was not our intent to come here for two years. Justin has been on enough teams. He needs to stay put for a minute.”