Justin Upton Elects Free Agency

Justin Upton Elects Free Agency

The Mariners announced that they have reinstated their outfielder/designated hitter Kyle Lewis from the list of concussions. To remove an active roster spot, they attempted to select Justin Upton to Triple-A Tacoma. As a veteran with well over five years of MLB service, Upton exercised his right to decline an optional assignment in favor of free agency. In fact, the transaction is akin to a release, as Upton heads back to the open market while Seattle clears a spot on their 40-man roster.

Lewis has missed nearly two months after suffering a concussion in late May. It was the latest in a series of health issues for the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year, who missed most of last season with a meniscus tear in his right knee. Lingering knee concerns kept Lewis from making his season debut until May 25, and he suffered a concussion within four games of his return. He’ll obviously be hoping for a longer stay now that he’s back with a Seattle club that, incredibly, is carrying a 14-game winning streak into the season’s unofficial second half.

The 27-year-old worked exclusively as a designated hitter in his four MLB games, but he has gotten some work in left field in his latest minor league rehab stint. The M’s have used Carlos Santana as their primary designated hitter since acquiring him from the Royals last month. The right field has primarily been aimed at Sam Haggerty. Seattle will certainly be wary of Lewis’ workload easing him back in, but that duo seems to see playing time diminished by his presence. It will be even more true when Mitch Haniger is returning from a high ankle sprain; Seattle’s High-A affiliate announced yesterday that he would begin a separate rehab assignment there this weekend.

As for Upton, the move brings a rather swift end to his time in the Pacific Northwest. Released by the Angels at the end of Spring Training, he settled with the Mariners on a major league deal six weeks into the season. After some time working on game form, he was recalled to the major league roster just over a month ago. That stay didn’t prove fruitful, however, as Upton stumbled to a .125/.263/.208 line with just one home run in 17 games. He didn’t have the benefit of regular playing time, but it was his continued below-average production that ultimately ended his time in Orange County.

Upton is making $28 million this season in the final guaranteed year of his original extension with the Halos. Los Angeles is on the hook for virtually all of that sum, and Seattle pays him only the prorated portion of the league’s $700,000 minimum for his month on the roster. Another club would owe him the same amount if they were to bring him on board, though Upton appears to be limited to minor league offers after struggling with the Mariners. If he wants to continue playing, he should have no problem finding a non-roster opportunity.

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