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03/03/10 7:33 PM ET

Upton signs six-year deal with D-backs

Outfield phenom signs extension through 2015 season

TUCSON, Ariz. -- In the end, it was an easy decision for Justin Upton.

The D-backs gave the talented young outfielder 51.25 million reasons to sign his name on a six-year contract that runs through 2015.

The deal buys out all three of Upton's salary-arbitration years as well as the first two years of free agency.

Upton, 22, will receive a $1.25 million signing bonus that will be paid in equal installments on April 15 and July 15 and salaries of $500,000 in 2010, $4.25 million in 2011, $6.75 million in 2012, $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015.

It's conceivable that he could have made more money by going through the arbitration process each year and then hitting the free-agent market at age 26, but the guaranteed money was too much for Upton to pass up.

"I could have gone year to year. I had the confidence in myself to do it," Upton said. "But obviously the team wanted to do something and they made it good for both sides. Part of it is the security."

The contract is the second richest in franchise history, coming in just behind the four-year, $52.4 million deal signed by Randy Johnson prior to the 1999 season. The D-backs can only hope that Upton has similar success as Johnson. The Big Unit won four straight NL Cy Young Awards over the course of his deal.

"Our motivation is simple," D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said. "When we have core players, guys we feel we can build around, we want them here as long as they can possibly be here, and Justin certainly fits that mold. We view him as a core player and as we view the next six years the kind of guy we want to build around."

And while Upton gets security, he also will be just 28 when his deal expires, meaning he will hit the free-agent market at what could be his peak years.

"That was part of it, too," he said. "I didn't want to be too old going into free agency."

Locking up their players to multiyear deals is nothing new for the D-backs. The team bought out arbitration years with Brandon Webb prior to the 2004 season and did so again with the right-hander prior to the 2006 campaign with a four-year, $19.5 million contract that included an option the D-backs exercised for 2010.

The five largest contracts in D-backs franchise history, in total dollars.
Player Years Value
Randy Johnson 1999-2002 $54.2 million
Justin Upton 2010-2015 $51.25 million
Matt Williams 1998-2003 $49.5 million
Randy Johnson 2003-2005 $48 million
Dan Haren 2009-2012 $44.75 million

The D-backs also signed pitchers Dan Haren and Doug Davis to multiyear contracts that have thus far paid dividends. In Haren's case, the team bought out free-agent years in 2011 and 2012 and also hold an option for 2013 while Davis signed a club-favorable three-year, $22 million deal prior to 2007.

Of course, there are risks associated with multiyear contracts as the deals with Chad Tracy and Eric Byrnes did not work out.

The D-backs knew that as a mid-market team if they waited to sign Upton as he got closer to free agency, there would be the likelihood they would not be able to afford him.

"Free agency is a challenge for any team," Byrnes said. "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 you're going early and you're going longer, but I think the reward justifies those types of moves."

The new contract will definitely bring scrutiny, but that is nothing new for Upton. The younger brother of the Rays' B.J. Upton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and he made his Major League debut in August 2007 just before his 20th birthday and with the D-backs in the middle of a pennant race.

"It's definitely nice, I'll tell you that," Upton said. "It's one of those things where with that comes some responsibility. The pressure is off, but there is a lot to live up to and I think I'm ready for that. I want to be great and if you want to be great you set your goals higher."

Upton was selected to the NL All-Star team in 2009, when he hit .300 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs. Orlando Cepeda is the only other player in Major League history to compile at least a .300 average, 25 homers, 80 RBIs and 20 stolen bases at age 21 or younger.

Among players who have signed contracts prior to becoming eligible for salary arbitration, Upton's deal ranks third behind Hanley Ramirez, who signed a $70 million deal with the Marlins, and Nick Markakis, who inked a $66.1 million contract with the Orioles.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.