Angels Rumors: Will Justin Upton be traded in salary dump?

Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

When he’s on a roll, Justin Upton can be one of the best hitters in the league. Unfortunately for the Angels, the past two seasons have featured the downside to Upton’s streakiness.

The Halos outfield prospects waiting for their chance to play in the big leagues could get their opportunity soon if Upton cannot consistently perform well at the plate this season.

It stinks it has come down to this. I have been a fan of Upton since he first rose to the big leagues with the Diamondbacks at 19-years old in 2007. Since then, Upton has made four All-Star teams and won four Silver Slugger awards.

The Angels outfield prospects and a large salary are a few things that will play a factor towards the future of Justin Upton in Anaheim.

The past two seasons have been forgetful. Injuries and age have decreased Upton’s production resulting in a .210/.301/.418 line with 21 home runs in combined 105 games. Upton has also posted a -0.13 WAR in those two years.

Justin Upton Last Five Seasons:

  • 2015: (150 games) .251/.336/.454 26 HR 81 RBI (All-Star)
  • 2016: (153 games) .246/.310/.465 31 HR 87 RBI
  • 2017: (152 games) .273/.361/.540 35 HR 109 RBI (All-Star)
  • 2018: (145 games) .257/.344/.463 30 HR 85 RBI
  • 2019: (63 games) .215/.309/.416 12 HR 40 RBI
  • 2020: (42 games) .204/.289/.422 9 HR 22 RBI

The Halos traded for Upton in a playoff push during the 2017 season. Upton finished with a .245 batting average and seven home runs in 27 games after coming over from Detroit in September. The Angels missed the playoffs, but Upton was granted a five-year, $106 million extension.

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The 33-year old will make $23 million this season and $28 million in 2022. Upton is one of four Angels (Trout, Rendon, Ohtani) under contract following 2021. The Angels will have more financial flexibility with or without Upton, but they may look to get a head start on next season.

Unless there are teams in the league who see an upside, there is little to no value attached to Upton at the moment. His contract, age, and recent performances will make it nearly impossible to find a suitor without financial help.

The only likely scenario where general manager Perry Minasian will move his left fielder will come from a salary dump.

Similar to what we’ve seen with the Orioles paying $10 million of Alex Cobb’s salary and the Cardinals paying $14.75 million for Dexter Fowler, the Halos could pay for Upton to play elsewhere in the near future.

Depending on how much money they commit, the Angels could get a quality prospect or two in return. If they have an opportunity, the Halos will not want to pay a significant amount of money towards a player spending most of his time on the bench. They will instead commit money if it means clearing space for others in the team’s future plans.

Given the promise players of Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, at some point, the Halos will want to have their young talent receive meaningful reps at the big-league level.

Next. 5 Angels prospects to watch in spring training

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I hope Upton can have a bounce-back season in 2021. I believe he will play with a chip on his shoulder, and will be crucial in whatever success the team has in the first half of the season. As a fan, he’s always been one of my favorite players, but the reality is sports being a business at the end of the day.

Wishful thinking won’t result in wins for the Angels. It comes down to who can execute consistently. If Upton can’t produce on a daily basis, someone else will get their shot.