This next scenario might be a bit of a stretch, but if the Angels fall out of contention I do not see Justin Upton on the team after July.
I say this for a few reasons, the first being the young outfielders who will eventually need big-league repetitions and they could be ready around that time. Similar to Pujols clogging everyday starts for Jared Walsh, Upton will do the same for the remainder of this season and 2022 if the Angels want to give others opportunities.
The tricky parts to an Upton trade scenario are his salary and a no-trade clause which he would need to approve. Upton is currently in the final two-years, $52.7 million of his contract with the Angels.
It would likely mean the Halos taking on a significant portion of that figure for Upton to play elsewhere. This would be a salary dump similar to the trades for Dexter Fowler and Alex Cobb. If the Angels will pay $30 million for Pujols not to be on the roster, how much would they pay to lose Upton in favor of the future assets getting playing time?
Angels: Justin Upton could bring trade value this season if he performs well.
However, the amount the Angels would pay in an Upton trade could also change depending on how well he plays. In 107 plate appearances, Upton has posted a slash line of .221/.299/.432 with six home runs and 13 RBIs this season. He also has a 0.1 WAR and 106 wRC+ in 27 games played.
There’s no question this Angels offense is better with Upton playing at a high level, but him being 33-years old and at the backend of a 15-year career gives reason to keep an eye towards the future. Even if he’s playing well and the Halos fall out of contention, they need to find a way to get the most from Upton from a return-value standpoint.
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While the decision to cut ties with Pujols was due in part to both parties having different views on his playing time, I think it inadvertently sends a message to the team that no one is safe. If not then it should, because now there is no excuse for Minasian and Moreno letting the poor play continue without finding solutions for the team’s issues.
If the losing continues, it’s a bigger slap in the face to Pujols and makes the product of the ownership and front office look worse.