The Indians announced Monday that they have released outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and catcher Ryan Hanigan (via Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com). Both players signed minor league contracts with the Tribe over the winter.
The Indians added the 33-year-old Upton with the hope that he’d experience a revival similar to the one Austin Jackson enjoyed a season ago. Cleveland signed Jackson to a minor league deal and saw him turn in an excellent campaign as a reserve outfielder. Upton, meantime, essentially endured a lost 2017. After the Blue Jays released Upton during the spring, he settled for a minors pact with the Giants, but late-April surgery on a torn thumb ligament kept him off the field for several weeks. He ultimately totaled just 49 plate appearances, all with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate.
Upton, who had been competing to be a backup outfielder this spring, struggled mightily in exhibition action before Cleveland released him. Across an admittedly small sample size of 37 at-bats, he hit just .189/.250/.297. That was enough to seal his fate with the Indians, though fellow minor league signing and veteran outfielder Rajai Davis hasn’t been any better (.242/.265/.373 in 33 ABs). He’s one of four outfielders remaining on the Indians’ projected Opening Day roster, though, while Michael Brantley and Brandon Guyer could each start the season on the disabled list.
Hanigan, 37, has a history of faring well defensively and getting on base (.344 lifetime OBP), but his production has gone backward in recent years. After combining to bat a woeful .218/.277/.291 in 225 PAs with the Red Sox and Rockies from 2016-17, he collected a meager 13 ABs this spring and hit .154/.214/.154. The Indians still have plenty of depth at catcher without Hanigan, as Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, Francisco Mejia and Eric Haase remain on hand.