The Anaheim Angels have designated Justin Upton for assignment, it was announced today. The Angels now have to waive, trade or release the 34 year old LF/DH.
This is interesting for us Rangers fans, given how openly the Rangers front office swooned over Justin Upton back in the day. They worked hard to trade to get Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the halcyon World Series days, then made a run at him in 2013, when he was with the Atlanta Braves (supposedly offering up Matt Garza, David Murphy and Joe Nathan to try to get Upton).
Upton went to the San Diego Padres after the 2014 season for a prospect package headed up by Max Fried. After a year with the Padres, he hit the free agent market and signed a 6 year, $132.75M deal with the Detroit Tigers that featured an opt out after the 2017 season.
By 2017, the Tigers were bad, and at the end of August of that year, Detroit was facing the prospect of 1) having Upton opt out and losing him, or 2) having Upton NOT opt out and being on the hook for a whole lot of money the next four years. They ended up sending him to the Angels in a deal for Grayson Long and a PTBNL.
Upton and the Tigers ended up agreeing, after the season, to a new deal worth $106M over five years, replacing the final four years and $88.5 million on his Detroit contract. Upton was good in 2018, but has been an below average hitter since then, and his defensive metrics in left field have been bad the last several years as well.
With Mike Trout seemingly heading to left field this season (UPDATE — or not, since Trout apparently said he wanted to stay in center), and Shohei Ohtani the everyday DH, Upton doesn’t fit on the Angels’ roster anymore, and thus the decision to DFA. The Angels will presumably see if they can find someone who will take Upton, and give them something — anything — if the Angels pay most of the $28 million he is owed this year. If not, he’ll be waived and released.