Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | March 4, 2010

Justin Upton Signs Extension

Yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they signed Right Fielder Justin Upton — One half of the highest drafted brother combo in Major League history along with brother B.J. — To a contract extension that would keep him with the team through the 2015 season so long as he is not traded.

Upton was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Diamondbacks out of High School and signed with the team with the largest signing bonus ever given to a draftee for a minor league contract ($6.1m, $2m of which is owed to him in the 2010 season).  Upton rewarded the Diamondbacks by moving quickly, reaching the majors at the age of 19 late in the 2007 season.   He got a full time role for the ’08 Diamondbacks and ascended to all-star status as a 20 year old with the ’09 team:

Year PA BA OBP SLG HR wRC+ UZR/150 TZ/yr.
2009 588 .300 .366 .532 26 134 8 22.7
2008 417 .250 .353 .463 15 107 -10.2 -10.2
2007 152 .221 .283 .364 2 59 -5.1 -11
Car. 1157 .272 .350 .485 43 115 0.1 6.2


For rewarding the Diamondbacks by moving quickly, Upton is rewarded by becoming a very rich man at the age of 22.   There is nothing to criticize about the contract, which looks great for both sides.   The Diamondbacks keep a young star player and former number one pick for six more seasons at a controlled cost — Essentially they don’t have to worry about him anymore until the contract is near expiration — And do so with the knowledge that barring injury Upton is likely to improve even on the outstanding season he put together in 2009.   The deal is structured in a fashion that makes it look very similar to what he may have gotten in arbitration anyhow — It pays him $500k for this season (where he was not arbitration eligible, though he also gets paid $2m this year as part of his original signing bonus, as noted earlier), $4.25m next year (what would’ve been his first arbitration year), and escalates throughout his would-have-been arb. Years before peaking in 2014, which would’ve been his first year of free agency.   The Diamondbacks bought out two of his free agency seasons — 2014 and 2015 — At $14.25m and $14.5m respectively.    So long as Upton remains uninjured it seems highly likely that by the time we reach those seasons, his salary will look rather meager compared to players of his performance level.

For Upton’s part however, he gets to avoid the arbitration process.  He no doubt was keen to what happened to his older brother B.J. in Tampa Bay.  The elder Upton is a former #2 overall pick of the Rays (2002) and lost his arbitration case, which was waged over $300k (by losing Upton will be paid $3m, as opposed to the $3.3m he requested).   On MLB radio yesterday evening Justin stated that he wanted to avoid arbitration and it is likely that seeing what happened to his brother may have played some role in that desire.   He also is now guaranteed $51.25m over the next six years, which safeguards him in the event of injury or a decline in performance for whatever reason.   He sacrifices maximizing his potential earnings for that safety and much like the Diamondbacks organization, he can now focus on playing instead of contract wrangling for another half-decade.

Overall, this is a great deal for both sides and it keeps a young star in place for the Diamondbacks to build around.  If I’m a Diamondbacks fan waking up Thursday morning, I’m pretty excited that this important piece in the puzzle to my team’s future has been set in place for many years to come.



  1. You’re right, great deal for both of them. Bill

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