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Angels make first move of the offseason, re-sign Justin Upton to five-year deal

Pedro Moura, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

On the first day of the offseason, the Angels re-signed Justin Upton to a five-year, $106-million contract, extending the slugging left fielder's agreement another year to keep him away from free agency.

Upton, 30, had the right to opt out of four years and $88.5 million left on his contract. He signed that deal two years ago with the Detroit Tigers, who began to rebuild this summer and dealt him to the Angels on Aug. 31.

The Angels sought Upton in an attempt to sneak into the American League's second wild-card slot. He hit .245 with an .887 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over 27 games, but the club fell below .500.

After the disappointing finish, the Angels carried two plans into the offseason: one governing what they would do if Upton exercised his opt-out clause; another if he returned. The morning after the season ended, once he stressed how much he wanted to improve his team's on-base percentage, Angels general manager Billy Eppler acknowledged that signing Upton to another deal was a secondary option.

Along with a steady track record of power production, Upton owns a career .348 on-base percentage, above the .330 mark Eppler has mandated as a minimum.

"Justin embodies our offensive philosophy," Eppler said, "which is to get on base and hit the ball hard."

One advantage of the new contract is the additional payroll flexibility it provides. Upton's old deal called for him to earn $22.125 million in each of the next four years. The contract finalized Thursday is significantly backloaded. It starts at $16 million in 2018, and rises to $18 million in 2019, $21 million in 2020, $23 million in 2021, and $28 million in 2022.

"Reconfiguring the cash flow of the deal was important for us, and we articulated that throughout the process with Justin," Eppler said. "To really capture Justin's commitment to winning, he was on board with that."

The Angels have held their Opening-Day payroll around $165 million in recent seasons. Even without Upton, they already had more than $110 million in salary commitments for 2018 between their veteran, arbitration-eligible and minimum-salaried players.

The $6 million saved on Upton for next season represents a significant increase in available money to dole out to free agents or trade acquisitions.

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