The move isn’t terribly shocking, as Upton was designated for assignment last week. With $28MM remaining on his contract, no team was going to claim him on waivers, as doing so would mean absorbing that entire cost. However, the Angels could have tried to eat some of that salary as a way of working out a trade with another team, but evidently either didn’t try or didn’t succeed at doing so.
Now that he has been released, the other 29 teams in the league will be free to sign Upton and pay him just the league minimum salary, with the Angels on the hook for the remainder. This is the second time in the past year that the Angels have jettisoned a veteran player on an expensive contract, after doing the same with Albert Pujols in May of last year.
Pujols ended up landing with the Dodgers, who tried their best to limit his exposure to same-sided pitching. In 85 games with the Dodgers, he put up an overall line of .254/.299/.460 for a wRC of 101. Upton is coming off three straight below-average years at the plate, but he could follow a similar path to his former teammate. His career splits aren’t terribly drastic, with a wRC+ of 127 against southpaws and 115 against righties. Last year, however, it was more stark, with a .225/.355/.483 line against lefties amounting to a wRC+ of 130. Against northpaws, it was just .205/.272/.380, wRC+ of 76.
For a team that needs a right-handed bat for their bench/pinch hitter/designated hitter mix, they could do much worse than taking a flier on the 34-year-old at no cost. Upton hasn’t been an above average defensive outfielder in some time, though he was working on playing first base in Spring Training, which could theoretically increase his market, in addition to the implementation of the universal DH this year.