Justin Upton = Face of the Franchise

Our motivation behind the deal is simple. When we have a core of players we feel we can build around, we want them here as long as they can possibly be here. He fits that model. We view him as a core player, as one of our key pieces, and over the next six years is a player we want to build around.
  -- GM Josh Byrnes

Is it too early for the above headline? Part of me has some concerns about so doing, given what happened to the last player anointed with that tag - ignominiously run out of town on a rail, pursued by a disgruntled Sedona Red mob. But Eric Byrnes was not an All-Star at age 21. In fact, he wasn't even playing professionally, since Eric didn't get drafted by the Athletics until he was aged 22. I think it's safe to say Upton's potential is somewhat more, and he was anointed as such today in Tucson, during the official announcement of his six-year, $51.25 million deal with the Diamondbacks.

After the jump, we'll have more quotes from the conference, and details of the contract.

It's a monster deal, the second-biggest in franchise history. Here's the top five, along with details of whether the players lived up to the contract or not. [The D-backs site, incidentally, has both the wrong amount and number of years for Johnson's contract]

Player Amount Years From/To Output
Randy Johnson $54.2m 4 1999-2002 ERA+ 188, four Cy Youngs, four All-Star games
Justin Upton $51.25m 6 2010-2015 ???
Matt Williams $49m 6 1998-2003 OPS+ 100, one All-Star game
Randy Johnson $48m 3 2003-2005 [2005 with NYY] ERA+ 132, one All-Star game
Dan Haren $44.75 4 2009-2012 ERA+ 146, one All-Star game so far.

Of the four other contracts, there's one which was still a bargain [Randy v1.0], one which is looking fine so far but is still very early [Haren], one which was somewhat overpaid [Randy v2.0] and one which was pretty much a millstone for the final four years [Williams, who averaged 76 games per season over that time, with an OPS+ of 89]. However, the difference is that Williams was 32 when he started the contract, with Johnson 35 and 39 respectively. Dan Haren was only 28, and Upton will be 22, so are both on the right side of the aging curve. Here's Upton's take on the deal:

For me it was, this year they put together a commitment to win. A big part is to win. I could have gone year-to-year; I had the confidence in myself to do it. Obviously the team wanted to do something and they made it good for both sides. Part of it is the security, but the biggest part is they want to win and I want to see where we can go the next six years.

I like the attitude here. It would have been very easy for Upton to play out the string on his remaining years, coast towards free-agency at age 26, then reel in the really big bucks. But it seems that he wants to stick around for longer than that, and I think that's a reflection of the potential we have in our young players. It's possible to imagine the D-backs Opening Day lineup in 2012 being basically the same as what we have this season - Brandon Allen at first instead of Adam LaRoche, maybe Tony Abreu instead of Kelly Johnson, but otherwise, pretty dissimilar. I wonder how much of it is not having Scott Boras as an agent. Not heard a peep about an extension for Stephen Drew. As for what the team gets out of it, Josh Byrnes went into some more detail:

We generally need to go early to deal with free agency and we’ve done that in a number of cases. There might be more risk because if you’re going early you’re going longer. But I think the reward justifies those types of moves... When you can have good players around longer, it’s good for everybody. It’s good for our team, good for our fans, it’s just a better opportunity to plan and to win.

Certainly, it nails the team's colors to the Upton mast in no uncertain fashion. It starts off humbly enough, with J-Up getting $500K this season, in addition to a $1.25m signing bonus; that makes sense, as he'd only be eligible for minimum wage anyway. For his three arbitration years, Upton will get $4.25m, $6.75m and $9.75m respectively. To put that into context, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier recently signed a contract covering his last two arbitration seasons for $15.25m, so the Upton numbers seems close to that. Upton's opening seasons of free-agency (2014-15) are valued at $14.25 and $14.5m - that may seem a bit high, but if we assume even 3% baseball salary inflation, those numbers become $12.7m and $12.5m in 2010 money. Upton seems largely unfazed by the potential pressure:

There’s a lot to live up to. I think I’m ready for that... It’s something the outside world can do to you, to put that kind of pressure on you, but you try not to put that kind of pressure on yourself. It’s different with me. I kind of do put that pressure on myself. I want to be great. If you want to be great then you set your goals higher. That’s what I do to myself. Sometimes I go too far and beat myself up over it, but it’s something that I think I can handle. It’s what I strive for.

It's often easy to forget that Upton is barely able to enjoy a cold beer. Think back to what you were like as a 22-year old [ok, BattleMoses and some of the young 'uns may need to try and think forward to that point!] Can you see yourself expressing anything quite as mature? I know I couldn't. Of course, we've seen him do things that do show his youth, but really, faking a ball toss or mistaking a home-run hit pales beside some of the crap I was pulling at his age. I imagine this is partly why the club felt comfortable committing to someone so young. But he's right: it is a lot to live up to. If I may be forgiven for getting Biblical on you momentarily: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Today, Upton became a man.

And that'll do for now. Tomorrow is - finally! - the first game, so expect something up on that shortly before first pitch, rounding up all the non-Upton related news of the past few days.

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