Now that Justin Upton has been released by the Angels, they are on the hook for Upton’s $28MM salary for this year. Any other team that signs Upton would only have to pay him a prorated portion of the new $700K league minimum, with that amount being subtracted from what the Angels are paying.
Although the 34-year-old hasn’t produced above the league average rate since 2018, that no-risk situation has led to interest from several teams, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. However, all of the interested teams are non-contenders, whose interest in Upton is merely in hoping for a quick bounceback and then flipping him to a contending team at the trade deadline.
Upton’s preference is reportedly to play for a contender, which is why he hasn’t accepted any of the overtures from other teams just yet. Although these suitors intend to trade Upton to a contender later, there’s always the chance that a trade doesn’t come together, either due to injury or poor performance, leaving him stranded. It seems he doesn’t want to take the risk of that happening, at least for now. As Nightengale notes, Upton hasn’t played in the postseason in almost a decade, with his last appearance coming in 2013.
It was recently reported that the Diamondbacks were considering a reunion with Upton, which would make for a nice story since that’s where Upton started his career and blossomed into a star. Although Nightengale doesn’t mention any teams by name, it’s possible that the D-Backs fit the mold of a non-contending team that Upton is hesitant to join. They’re coming off a miserable 52-110 season where the top two teams in the division, the Giants and Dodgers, won 107 and 106 games.
It had also been reported that the Twins had checked in on Upton last week. Like the Diamondbacks, they’re also coming off a down year, but were aggressive in reloading for 2022, perhaps making Minnesota a more likely contender than Arizona. Since their reported interest in Upton last week, their outfield need has grown, with Alex Kirilloff landing on the IL and Byron Buxton leaving Friday’s game with a knee injury, although it’s possible Buxton will avoid a trip to the IL himself.