Remember when Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila ruled out the possibility of the team making a run at any of the big-name free-agent outfielders available this winter? Yeah, we don't either.
Late Monday night, the Tigers and Justin Upton agreed to a six-year deal worth $132.75 million, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick and multiple reports. The deal likely pushes the Tigers beyond the luxury tax threshold once all is said and done this offseason and shows, once again, that Detroit owner Mike Ilitch can never be counted out when it comes to big free agents.
It also indicates one other thing: Yoenis Cespedes is going to get paid.
"[Cespedes] was in the conversation [with the Tigers]," an agent told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. "So he must know he can get even more elsewhere."
It's safe to rule out the possibility of Cespedes signing a short-term deal at this point. As John Harper of the New York Daily News points out, Upton's lengthy and expensive contract shows that multiple teams were likely interested in him on a multiyear deal. Now that the Tigers have him, those teams could shift their attention to Cespedes, who is clearly the biggest name remaining on the market at this point.
As we mentioned here yesterday, as many as 10 teams are believed to be interested in Cespedes. Given the long-term commitment a deal might require, the New York Mets are likely out, Harper writes. The Houston Astros are also an unlikely landing spot, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. Rumors surfaced over the weekend that the 'Stros could be a sleeper for Cespedes' services, but the team's lack of history with going over $100 million for a free agent seems to suggest Houston won't be an aggressive bidder.
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden laid out his best fits for Cespedes yesterday, which included the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels. With the Tigers signing Upton, the White Sox might counter by meeting Cespedes' asking price. Meanwhile, the Angels, whose owner ruled out any big-name free-agent signings a while back, still lurk as a logical suitor. Los Angeles' left fielders were among the worst in the game offensively in 2015, which the team has yet to address this winter.
Here are a few other rumors making their way around baseball today:
Baltimore Orioles: In Rosenthal's piece cited above, he focuses on the difficult situation that the O's currently find themselves in. Baltimore already has shelled out big money this winter, but the team still needs to add an outfielder and starting pitcher if it wishes to contend this year. With little to offer in terms of a trade, the Orioles' best bet might be to continue spending money on free agents, which could bring payroll to an uncomfortable level for the team. In terms of outfielders, Rosenthal, not surprisingly, sees Cespedes as an unlikely option. As for pitchers, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister and Mat Latos could be options. However, the O's are reluctant to part with their first-round pick for Gallardo, fear that Fister's price will rise beyond their comfort level and have questions about Latos' makeup, sources tell Rosenthal.
Joe Nathan: About 10 teams are interested in Nathan, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 41-year-old pitched in only one game with the Tigers last year before missing the rest of the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Despite his age, Nathan is attempting a comeback, and many teams are likely interested in the hopes that they can land him on an inexpensive deal. The right-hander posted a 4.81 ERA with Detroit in 2014 but was an All-Star with the Texas Rangers in 2013.
A.J. Pollock: As we mentioned here yesterday, the Arizona Diamondbacks are shelving multiyear extension talks with Pollock, who currently remains unsigned for the 2016 season. However, a one-year deal for the 28-year-old to avoid arbitration could come soon. "We're not far apart," Arizona DM Dave Stewart told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. "We're willing, if they're willing, to get to a ground where this thing doesn't have to go [to a hearing]. Both sides have to be willing, and if that can happen because the numbers are so close, we should be able to get this thing settled." It's no surprise that the D-backs are pushing hard to avoid a hearing with Pollock, seeing as they surely still have a desire to retain him long-term. Pollock filed for arbitration last Friday at $3.9 million, while the team countered at $3.65 million.
Rangers: The Rangers are looking to add depth to their rotation and aren't considering any big-name pitching acquisitions, GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, on Monday. "We're comfortable with the group we have now," Daniels said. "We're expecting to roll into Surprise with them." Texas currently has Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis in its rotation, with the fifth spot likely to be held by a placeholder until Yu Darvish is ready to return from Tommy John surgery (likely mid-May). That said, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez figure to get a shot at the job unless the Rangers bring in another pitcher with notable major league experience.
Byron Buxton: To no surprise, the Minnesota Twins plan on starting the season with Buxton in their outfield. "It will make things a lot smoother if he’s the guy. Because if he’s not, it’s going to be interchanging parts and it might not look too pretty, at least at the start," manager Paul Molitor told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "So I’m hoping that works out. It would be the best-case scenario if Byron Buxton is ready to be our center fielder." Buxton, who's considered one of the the game's best prospects, struggled in his first exposure to the majors last year, hitting .209 in 138 plate appearances. Unless he struggles mightily in spring training, the Twins will likely give him a long leash to start the 2016 season, especially considering their lack of outfield depth.