The Los Angeles Angels have one of the best players in baseball history in center fielder Mike Trout, but as the star outfielder heads into the prime of his career, the Angels have been criticized for not fielding a competent team around him.
In 2017, the Angels made some progress, even as Trout missed time with a broken thumb, finishing 80-82 and pushing for the second American League wildcard spot until late in the season.
Entering 2018, though, things need to be different and Trout needs more help. Fortunately, the team took a step in the right direction on Thursday.
According to Angels.com, the team signed star outfielder Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million contract to keep him in Los Angeles after he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in August.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler said getting Upton on board was a big priority this offseason:
"It felt, to me, over the last 30 days of our season that Justin wanted to be here, and we wanted to have him here," Eppler said Thursday. "So we just focused on our relationship and didn't really consider other alternatives or anything of that nature. We just really wanted to make sure we could keep this union together, and he did, too."
Locking Upton up this early gives the Angels a core of stars they can now build around throughout the winter's free agency period.
Upton, who is currently out of the country, tweeted his appreciation to the Angels on Thursday afternoon, saying he was happy to stay in Los Angeles:
In only 27 games with the Angels following last year's trade, Upton hit .245 with seven home runs and 15 RBI. For the entire 2017 season, he hit .273 with 35 homers and 109 RBI.
With that sort of power and production, Eppler said Upton is the perfect player to pair alongside Trout, who has the same sort of strengths at the plate:
"Justin embodied our offensive philosophy, which is to get on base and hit the ball hard," Eppler said. "He's shown a knack for doing that. He's got the power and the on-base skills that we covet, as well as the character and the professional approach necessary to be a key member of our core moving forward."
It's been a few years since the Angels have made the postseason, which is disappointing for Trout, who has already won two AL MVP awards. However, with Upton in the mix for a full season, that drought could end in 2018.