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3 best Justin Upton free-agent destinations

Robbie Stratakos

The Los Angeles Angels recently designated 34-year-old outfielder Justin Upton for assignment. This was presumably done to get younger outfielders like Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell more reps alongside a healthy Mike Trout.

Although he has underwhelmed of late, Upton can still play a role on a contending MLB team. He’s a respectable left fielder who has considerable pop from the right side and has been there, done that.

Here are three ideal destinations for Justin Upton when he inevitably clears waivers.

Related: MLB power rankings heading into opening day

3. Justin Upton bolsters the Minnesota Twins’ outfield rotation

minnesota twins sign justin upton
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins are trying to get back in contention, which is best exhibited by them signing Carlos Correa and trading for Sonny Gray. Upton would be another impactful pickup for manager Rocco Baldelli’s club.

While they have a productive offense, uncertainty exists in the Twins’ outfield. For starters, their two best outfielders have pressing questions surrounding their games. Byron Buxton continues to be held back by injuries, and Max Kepler is coming off a pair of rough offensive seasons.

Outside of Buxton and Kepler, the Twins’ outfield is a guessing game, as Brent Rooker, Kyle Garlick and to a degree Alex Kirilloff are still raw. Upton could be their starting left fielder from the jump. He provides a healthy and able player to beef up their outfield both at the plate and in the field. Another option is Upton serving as Minnesota’s designated hitter if the team opts to start one of the aforementioned players in left.

Upton reinforces the Twins’ offensive identity while serving as a veteran complement to a young positional nucleus.

2. Justin Upton fills a void for the Los Angeles Dodgers

los angeles dodgers sign justin upton
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

While the Dodgers were able to sway Freddie Freeman to Southern California, they still have some voids to fill, one of them coming in their outfield. Los Angeles recently traded outfielder AJ Pollock to the Chicago White Sox for closer Craig Kimbrel. Upton replaces Pollock from a head count.

Chris Taylor would likely get the starting nod in left field over Upton. That said, Taylor is accustomed to playing five positions and will indeed play multiple positions if and when injuries hit the Dodgers’ infield. Upton would either be their primary left fielder or fourth outfielder, which are two roles he can thrive in.

  • AJ Pollock stats (2021): .297/.355/.536, 21 home runs and 69 RBIs across 384 at-bats

In the former role, Upton serves as a right-handed power threat who can clear the bases in any part of the order. If he assumes the latter role, Upton is a starting-caliber player off the bench.

One way or another, the Dodgers are better off with a proven commodity like Upton in the outfield than an inexperienced player or someone playing out of position like Gavin Lux did at times last season.

Pollock was a highly efficient hitter for the Dodgers. Cody Bellinger has fallen off the map. Mookie Betts is inconsistent. In other words, the Dodgers’ outfield is leaving much to be desired. Upton at least gives them another respectable hitter.

1. Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Angels
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers and Twins are both viable landing spots for Upton, but the Padres need him a little more.

New manager Bob Melvin has a trio of issues with his club, two of them in the starting lineup: Fernando Tatis Jr. will miss at least two months due to a wrist injury and the Padres are lacking in the outfield. Sticking with the outfield, Wil Myers is a respectable but little more threat at the plate. Trent Grisham has upside but hasn’t made a substantial impact in their lineup.

Jurickson Profar brings some pop and defensive versatility to the table but is best suited for a super utility role. Outfield prospect Robert Hassell III could theoretically make his MLB debut this season, but the Padres can’t bank on instant results. Would Upton’s return (he played for the Padres in 2015) resolve the Padres’ lacking outfield? Of course not, but he gives them a capable power hitter and a new left fielder, which is something they don’t necessarily have at the moment.

Trying to squeeze out whatever production remains in Upton is worthwhile for a team with championship aspirations like the Padres. Worst-case scenario, they release Upton in favor of Profar or trade for an upgrade.