ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels acquired slugging outfielder Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, upgrading their lineup for the playoff race.
The Angels also allowed Cameron Maybin to leave on a waiver claim by the Houston Astros, clearing the way for Upton to take over in left field.
The 30-year-old Upton is having a strong season for the struggling Tigers, batting .279 with 28 homers and 94 RBIs.
He represents an immediate upgrade in left field for the Angels (69-65), who are still fighting for a playoff spot despite several major injuries to their pitching staff and one of the AL’s least potent lineups.
The four-time All-Star signed a six-year, $132.75 million deal to join Detroit before last season. Detroit agreed to pay the Angels $747,951 to cover a portion of the $3,747,951 remaining in Upton’s $22,125,000 salary this year.
His deal includes four more seasons at the same salary, but he can opt out after the World Series and become a free agent.
The Angels sent minor-league pitcher Grayson Long to Detroit, which also gets cash considerations or a player to be named. Long was among the Angels’ better prospects after posting a 2.52 ERA in 23 Double-A starts this season.
But the Angels clearly want to push for just their second playoff appearance since 2009. Los Angeles began the day one game behind Minnesota (69-63) for the second AL wild card spot.
Despite the stellar production of two-time AL MVP Mike Trout, the Angels are 12th in the league in runs (584) and 15th in OPS (.713).
Left field has been a problematic spot for the Angels for several years, with oft-injured Josh Hamilton leading a long list of players who couldn’t produce at the position. Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million deal with Los Angeles in December 2012, but lasted just two seasons.
Hamilton’s contract finally comes off the Angels’ books this winter, freeing their payroll to absorb the rest of Upton’s contract if he doesn’t opt out. Upton likely would have been near the top of the Angels’ free-agent shopping list even if they hadn’t swung the trade, so the move essentially gives Los Angeles a head start on its offseason plans.
Maybin has been relatively solid by the low standards for an Angels left fielder, batting .235 with 22 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 93 games. He joined the Angels last winter in a trade with Detroit. Houston will be his sixth big-league club.
Los Angeles hasn’t won a postseason game since Albert Pujols and Trout joined the club five years ago. The Angels were swept by Kansas City in 2014 in Trout’s only playoff appearance.
The Angels open a nine-game road trip against AL West opponents on Friday night in Texas.