Mariners sign 4-time All-Star outfielder Justin Upton to MLB deal

May 21, 2022, 6:02 PM | Updated: 6:20 pm
Mariners Justin Upton...
Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels drops his bat after hitting a home run against the Houston Astros. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Mariners are adding a new bat to the mix as they’ve signed outfielder Justin Upton, a former No. 1 overall pick who has made four All-Star teams and has four top-25 MVP finishes over his soon-to-be 16-year career.

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Upton is signing a major league deal, the team announced Saturday evening, and the 34 year old will report to extended spring training in Arizona. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Adrian Sampson has been designated for assignment.

Upton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks and made his MLB debut for Arizona at 19 years old in 2007. After six seasons and two All-Star nods with the Diamondbacks, Upton was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

After those two years in Atlanta, Upton was traded to the San Diego Padres for the 2015 season. That was Upton’s lone year in San Diego as he signed a lucrative six-year contract with the Detroit Tigers ahead of the 2016 season. His stint in Detroit was short, though, as he was sent to the Los Angeles Angels at the 2017 trade deadline.

Overall in his career, Upton owns a .262/.343/.431 slash line with 324 home runs and 1,000 RBIs in 1,828 games over 15 seasons.

Upton’s last All-Star berth was in 2017, and, with the Angels, he slashed .232/.322/.443 with 75 home runs and 203 RBIs in 366 games since the aforementioned 2017 trade.

Upton hit .211 with 17 home runs and 41 RBIs in 2021 and was designated for assignment late in spring training of this year. He cleared waivers and became a free agent a few days later. Upton hit .333 with three home runs in seven spring training games for the Angels.

The Mariners have greatly struggled to score runs of late and Upton will have the ability to get playing time once he joins the MLB roster due to an opening in the outfield created by both Mitch Haniger’s injury as well as Jarred Kelenic’s struggles that led to his demotion.

It will be worth monitoring, though, how the Mariners use Upton defensively as he’s played almost exclusively in left field since 2014 and hasn’t played right field since 2013.

That’s noteworthy as Jesse Winker is a natural left fielder and Kyle Lewis, who is expected to re-join the MLB roster early next week, will likely spend most of his time at designated hitter due to the most recent knee injury that’s kept him out of MLB action for nearly a year. Haniger, Seattle’s opening day right fielder, is not expected back until the beginning of July at the earliest while it’s unclear when Kelenic could re-join the Mariners.

Revisiting 2013

Upton almost became a Mariner nearly a decade ago.

As you may remember, the Mariners and Diamondbacks had reportedly agreed to a deal to trade Upton to Seattle for four young players – pitchers Taijuan Walker, Stephen Pryor and Charlie Furbush and infielder Nick Franklin — in January of 2013. But Upton, who was 25 at the time, had a limited no-trade clause and reportedly used it to decline being moved to the Mariners. Ultimately, he was traded to the Braves a short time later.

Funny enough, the Diamondbacks would land Walker a few years later when he was traded to Arizona along with infielder Ketel Marte prior to the 2017 season. In return, the Mariners got Haniger and infielder Jean Segura.

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