Justin Upton earmarked for the job

MESA, Ariz. – The Los Angeles Angels’ decision to appoint a veteran Justin Upton Saturday’s outing was less a comment on Upton and more a belief in the talent and commitment of young outfield players Yeah Adell and Brandon March.

Angels General Manager Perry Minasian speaking to reporters outside Los Angeles 5-4 loss to the Cubssaid Adell, 22, and Marsh, 24, have earned their place on the regular-season roster with their performance in Cactus League games.

“It was more about that [them] and what they did this spring,” Minasian said. “Yeah, I believe everyone who saw him play this spring [would think he’s] was pretty impressive on both sides of the ball. And of course Brandon too, especially the last few days he’s been swinging the bat – left-handed bat. They both bring athleticism on defense and both give us a different dynamic on base that we haven’t had in the past. So we felt like they were a really good fit.”

Still, Minasian admitted to having a “very difficult” conversation with Upton, who signed a five-year deal with the Angels after the 2017 season and was a well-loved veteran at the clubhouse.

“The better you get as a club, the more depth you have as a club,” said Minasian. “It was a really, really difficult decision that we spent a lot of time thinking about and talking about. We just felt like Jo and Brandon are both ready to go.”

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

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

Asked about the possibility of being in charge of the rest of Upton’s contract, Minasian said: “We’re trying to win games. We try to field the best team 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’s been in years, but Adell and Marsh were “mature.”

“You have young people 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 “fit”. Adell and Marsh can fill multiple outfield positions – Marsh can handle all three – and both are considered better defenders than Upton at this point in his career. Their versatility essentially gives the Angels a four-man outfield Mike Trout and 28 years old Taylor Ward.

Minasian declined to say how playing time would be split between the three corner fielders. Maddon said his goal is to get Adell, Marsh, and Ward all 450 to 500 At-bats.

“For a three-man outfield, you need four people,” Minasian said. “We’re comfortable in outfield defense with this group.”

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

Upton was drafted overall by Arizona in the 2005 MLB draft and played for the D-Backs, Braves, Padres and Tigers before the Angels acquired him in a 17 trade from Detroit. Upton signed a five-year contract with the Angels after season 17.

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

“I hope he understands if he chooses to do that,” Maddon said.

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