Four-time All-Star Justin Upton has agreed to a deal with the Seattle Marriners.
Per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Mariners will only be responsible for $550,000 of Upton's salary for the 2022 season.
Bob Nightengale @BNightengale
All-Star right fielder Justin Upton, released in spring training by the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Angels?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Angels</a>, will be signing a major-league contract with the Seattle <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mariners?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Mariners</a> that will become official tonight. The Mariners will be responsible for only about $550,000 of Upton’s $28 million contract.
Upton was a surprise addition to the free-agent pool late in spring training. The Los Angeles Angels designated him for assignment April 2. The move meant any other team could claim him, but a club would be on the hook for his $28 million salary this season.
After Upton cleared waivers, he became an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team.
The Angels' decision to move on from Upton shows faith in Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. Adell, in particular, will be crucial to what Los Angeles' ceiling is in 2022. He was a top-10 prospect in Major League Baseball two years ago but has posted a .205/.255/.339 slash line in 73 games over the past two seasons.
The Angels originally acquired Upton in August 2017 in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. After posting a solid .245/.357/.531 slash line in 27 games following the deal, Upton signed a five-year, $106 million extension with Los Angeles after the 2017 season.
Since a solid 2018 campaign with 30 homers, 85 RBI and a .808 OPS, Upton has struggled at the plate when he's been able to play. The 34-year-old posted a .211/.299/.414 slash line, 38 homers and 103 RBI in 194 games over the past three seasons.
Injuries have been a problem for Upton during that span. He only played in 63 games in 2019 because of turf toe and patellar tendinitis. Back issues limited him to 89 games in 2021.
Even though it was a small sample size in spring training, there were positive indications that Upton is at least healthy. The Virginia native had three homers, 11 RBI and a 1.407 OPS in 15 at-bats across seven games prior to the Angels designating him for assignment.
At this stage of his career, Upton is best served in a platoon role. His OPS in 2021 was 186 points higher against left-handed pitching (.838) than right-handed pitching (.652).
The Mariners are paying Upton so little that it shouldn't be hard for him to be a surplus value on their roster as long as he stays healthy. He's not the same player he was at his peak, but a power hitter who can mash against lefties is a major asset for any team.