BOSTON — With Mitch Haniger likely not return from ankle injury until early July, and Kyle Lewis likely to be a full-time designated hitter when he is healthy enough to return from knee surgery, and Jarred Kelenic refinding his confidence in Tacoma, the Mariners are taking a flyer on a former All-Star outfielder that hasn’t played in a baseball game since spring training.
As darkness fell on Fenway Park, following a brutal 6-5 loss where they squandered a five-run lead, the Mariners announced that they had signed veteran Justin Upton to a one-year major league contract.
To make room on their 40-man roster, the Mariners designated right-handed pitcher Adrian Sampson for assignment. The Mariners claimed him off waivers on May 13, optioning him to Class AAA Tacoma. He had yet to appear in a game for the Rainiers.
Upton, 34, will report to extended spring training in Peoria, Arizona, to get game ready. How long that will take is uncertain. He played in seven games with the Angels this spring, last appearing in a Cactus League game March 31. He had five hits, three of them homers, and 11 RBI in 15 plate appearances with the Angels.
But with new general manager Perry Minassian deciding to play youngsters Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell at the corner outfield spots beside Mike Trout, the Angels decided to designated Upton for assignment on April 2.
It was a bold move considering Upton was in the final year of a five-year, $117 million contract, meaning the Angels would have to pay him $28 million dollars this season if nobody claimed him off waivers, which predictably no team did, making him a free agent.
Adell struggled to start the season and was recently optioned back to Class AAA.
The Mariners will have to pay Upton the remainder of what would be the MLB league minimum for a player for this season, just over $550,000.
Upton is a four-time All-Star with those appearances not coming recently (2009, ’11, ’15, ’17) and has battled injuries and inconsistency during his time with the Angels.
In 2021, he played in 89 games, posting a .211/.296/.409 with 12 doubles, 17 homers, 41 RBI, 39 walks and 107 strikeouts. Over the last four seasons, he has a .231/.319/.436 slash line with 68 homers and 188 RBI while playing in 339 games.
When he’s ready, Upton would likely slide into the right field spot that is currently being platooned between Frazier, Dylan Moore and Steven Souza Jr. with Souza likely being designated for assignment.
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