Justin Upton nominated for assignment

MESA, Ariz. — The Los Angeles Angels’ decision to nominate veteran Justin Upton for assignment Saturday wasn’t so much a commentary on Upton, as a belief in the talent and preparation of young outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian, who spoke to reporters ahead of Los Angeles’ 5-4 loss to the Cubs, said Adell, 22, and Marsh, 24, had made their way into the regular season roster thanks to their performances in Cactus League games.

“It was rather [them] and what they did this spring,” Minasian said. “Jo, I think anyone who saw him play this spring [would think he’s] been pretty impressive on both sides of the ball. And obviously Brandon too, especially the last two days swinging the bat – batting left-handed. Defensively the athleticism they both bring and on the bases they both give us a different dynamic that we haven’t had in the past. So we felt like they fit really well.

Still, Minasian acknowledged having a “very difficult” conversation with Upton, who signed a five-year contract with the Angels after the 2017 season and was a popular veteran in the clubhouse.

“The more you improve as a club, the more depth you have as a club,” said Minasian. “It was a really, really tough decision that we spent a lot of time and thought and discussed. We just felt like both Jo and Brandon were ready to go.

The Angels now have seven days to trade the 34-year-old outfielder or place him on irrevocable waivers. Upton has one year and $28 million remaining on his five-year, $106 million contract, and Los Angeles will be liable for that money if no team trades for him or asks him for a waiver.

The Angels made a similar move last season when they nominated Albert Pujols for an assignment. Pujols, who was in the final season of a 10-year, $240 million contract, went unclaimed and was released before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Asked about the possibility of being responsible for the rest of Upton’s contract, Minasian said: “We try to win games. We try to put the best team on the field that will win us the most games. »

Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon said Upton had a great camp and was in the best shape he had seen in years, but Adell and Marsh were “mature”.

“You have young guys on the horizon,” Maddon said. “It’s just the natural order of things. That’s how it works.

Minasian said the decision to keep Adell and Marsh over Upton was pretty much “in shape”. Adell and Marsh can fill multiple positions in the outfield — Marsh can handle all three — and both are considered better defenders than Upton at this point in his career. Their versatility gives the Angels essentially a four-man outfield, with 28-year-old Mike Trout and Taylor Ward.

Minasian declined to say how playing time would be divided among the three corner fielders. Maddon said his goal was to get Adell, Marsh and Ward all 450-500 at bats.

“For a three-man outfield, you need four guys,” Minasian said. “We feel good defending the outfield with this group.”

Upton was 5-for-15 with three homers in Cactus League games, but he hit .211 with a .705 OPS last season and was twice on the disabled list with back problems. Adell is hitting .273 this spring with three home runs, Marsh is hitting .303 with two home runs and three stolen bases. Ward, who is hitting .296, also has two home runs.

Selected first overall by Arizona in the 2005 MLB Draft, Upton played for the D-backs, Braves, Padres and Tigers before the Angels acquired him from Detroit in a trade. in 2017. Upton signed a five-year contract with the Angels after the 2017 season.

In 15 major league seasons, Upton hit .262 with 324 home runs, 1,000 RBI and .814 OPS, including 75 home runs and .764 OPS in 366 games for the Angels.

“Hopefully he’ll understand if that’s what he decides to do,” Maddon said.