Report: Justin Upton Designated for Assignment by Angels; OF Owed $28M in 2022

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 2, 2022

Los Angeles Angels' Justin Upton (10) reacts to hitting a foul ball during a baseball game against the New York Yankees Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The Los Angeles Angels reportedly designated outfielder Justin Upton, a four-time All-Star, for assignment Saturday.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the news and noted Upton is poised to become a free agent with no team likely to pick up the remaining $28 million on his five-year, $106 million contract, which expires after the 2022 MLB season.

The roster move comes as a surprise for a variety of reasons, led by the timing of the decision with just a handful of days before the regular season gets underway.

Upton was enjoying a strong start to spring training with five hits, including three home runs, in 15 at-bats, and he'd only struck out once. It raised hopes he could deliver a bounce-back year after posting a .705 OPS, his lowest figure since 2007, last season.

L.A. also doesn't have a direct replacement on the roster or a top-tier prospect waiting in the wings who's ready to fill the void. Brandon Marsh and Taylor Ward will likely form a platoon in left field for the time being.

Halos manager Joe Maddon had also expressed a chance for Upton to draw some starts at first base in relief of Jared Walsh this season based on matchups.

"We have him working at first base because there might be an opportunity to give Walshy a day off against a tough left-hander," Maddon said in mid-March. "There's different ways to get his bat in the lineup. He's getting his typical work in the outfield corners, but we wanted to introduce him at first base just in case that became pertinent."

Put it all together and the 34-year-old slugger appeared destined for an important role in 2022. Instead, he'll likely be searching for a new organization.

Since it's so late in the process—Opening Day is set for Thursday—it wouldn't be a surprise if he signs a team-friendly one-year deal with a team where he'll be guaranteed ample playing time to rebuild his value before becoming a free agent next winter.

Upton's career has been sidetracked by injuries in recent seasons, which contributed to the dip in his numbers, but he hit 30 homers as recently as 2018.