The Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). Upton has already passed his physical, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, adding that the deal comes with a $1.5MM base salary in the Majors. Upton is represented by Reynolds Sports Management.
Upton, 33, scarcely played in 2017 after being released by the Blue Jays at the end of Spring Training. He latched on with the Giants on a minor league deal shortly thereafter but quickly suffered a torn ligament in his thumb that required surgical repair. Upton returned to action in August but requested and received his release that month.
Overall, Upton appeared in just 12 Triple-A games last season, hitting .244/.306/.333 in a minuscule sample of 49 plate appearances. Though his five-year, $72.25MM contract was a notorious misstep for the Braves, Upton did show some signs of life in the late stages of that deal after he’d been passed off onto the Padres. In 602 plate appearances with San Diego fro 2015-16, Upton slashed a respectable .257/.313/.435 (103 OPS+) with 21 homers and 29 stolen bases. His production cratered again following a trade to the Blue Jays, however (.196/.261/.318 in 165 PAs to close out the 2016 campaign).
The Indians will obviously hope that Upton can more closely approximate the level of output he demonstrated as a member of the Padres. The signing bears a strong resemblance to Cleveland’s minor league deal with Austin Jackson last offseason, and Upton could head to Spring Training and vie for a similar role to the one Jackson held in 2017 (though the addition of Upton likely doesn’t preclude the possibility of a reunion with Jackson himself).