After years of being linked to Melvin (B.J.) Upton Jr., the Cleveland Indians have officially signed the third baseman-turned-outfielder. According to Ken Rosenthal, the contract is of the minor league variety with an invite to the team’s Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona.
Sources: #Indians agree to minor-league deal with Melvin Upton Jr.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2017
Upton, once one of the top prospects in the game, has been a potential acquisition of the Indians since his days patrolling the outfield in Tampa Bay. Finally landing in Cleveland at age 33, Upton will be doing so coming off a season where he produced a .244/.306/.333 slash line over 12 minor league games in a season that was littered with injuries.
This marks the first real move for an Indians team that has seen more players leave then arrive. Bryan Shaw has signed with the Rockies. Joe Smith has opted to sign with the Houston Astros. The Indians reportedly left Winter Meetings without agreeing to terms with free agent Carlos Santana (their “top choice“), and there are a handful of teams interested in Jay Bruce. Indians manager Terry Francona recently stated that the team is “not done,” though it’s tough to argue you can finish something that clearly hasn’t started.
The Tribe will already be without Michael Brantley at the start of the season, and second baseman-turned-center fielder Jason Kipnis is reportedly on the trading block, potentially paving the way for Upton to make the big league squad if he can stay healthy. Despite the suspect slash line and small sample size, Upton put up an .874 OPS against lefties last season, and has had success against south paws throughout his career (111 OPS+). Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports says the veteran will earn $1.5 million if makes the majors, right in line with the Indians’ penchant for low-risk, potentially high-reward signings.