The Angels have designated Justin Upton for assignment, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter). Upton is owed $28MM this season in the last year of his deal. Anyone who claims Upton would have to take on the $28MM contract, so the likelihood here is that Upton will soon before a free agent.
The Angels appear ready to go young in the outfield. The burden to flank all-world superstar Mike Trout in the outfield will now fall to highly-touted prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. Taylor Ward, 28, will also be in the mix for playing time there.
As for Upton, the 34-year-old has proved a streaky hitter in recent years, though his final line came in at just .211/.296/.409 over 362 plate appearances. He did, however, still slug southpaws to the tune of .225/.355/.483. As a free agent, Upton could be a low-cost option to provide some value in a short-side platoon. He’s also been working out at first base this spring, which could give an avenue to playing time somewhere. Speculatively speaking, the Red Sox, Padres, Tigers, Rangers, Dodgers, or Rockies might be interested in giving Upton a look in this capacity.
Today’s move ends what has to be considered an overall disappointing tenure in L.A. for Upton, given that he hit a modest .232/.322/.443 with 75 home runs over his 1512 PA in an Angels uniform. Injuries were undoubtedly a factor, as Upton has battled back problems in recent years and also missed the majority of the 2019 season with both knee issues and turf toe.
While Upton’s numbers as an Angel still work out as above-average (106 OPS+) offensive production, more was expected given Upton’s salary. The Halos acquired Upton from the Tigers in August 2017, and though Upton had an opt-out clause following that season, the two sides worked out a new contract extension to keep Upton in Anaheim. The new deal guaranteed Upton $106MM covering the 2018-22 seasons.
In a corresponding move, Ty Buttrey was reinstated from the restricted list and placed on the 40-man roster. The right-handed reliever has been optioned to Triple-A, per the team. Buttrey had been on the restricted list since last April when he decided to take some time away from baseball, but decided over the winter to return.