While Justin Upton has yet to announce a decision on his future, a source told MLB.com that it's increasingly likely he will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and become a free agent.
Upton, who must decide on the opt-out within three days of the World Series ending, is due $88.5 million over the next four seasons. If he forgoes that guarantee, he still could return to the Angels, for whom he played the final 27 games of the 2017 season following an Aug. 31 trade from the Tigers.
Upton, 30, is said to have enjoyed his time in Anaheim and could leverage the opt-out into adding years and dollars onto his current agreement with the Angels. CC Sabathia took a similar approach with the Yankees in the fall of 2011, receiving an additional guarantee of $30 million over one season just as he was about to hit the open market.
Upton is coming off a career year, offensively, in which he established highs in home runs (35), RBIs (109) and OPS (.901). If he becomes a free agent, he'll be seeking stability and a chance to win the World Series, two things that have eluded him in recent years. Upton has played for four different teams -- the Braves, Padres, Tigers and Angels -- in the past four seasons. He last appeared in the postseason in 2013, and he's never played in a World Series.
On the open market, Upton's primary competition would be former Tigers teammate J.D. Martinez. Among full-time outfielders, Martinez ranks third in OPS+ over the past four seasons, behind only Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton and ahead of Bryce Harper. Upton, who ranks 10th, is the only other player on that list who is potentially available in free agency this winter.
Yoenis Cespedes would be mentioned as a comparable player to Upton, should the latter decide to opt-out. The two have comparable numbers, and Upton is the same age now that Cespedes was last offseason, when he signed a four-year, $110-million deal with the Mets.
Upton's decision could be guided in part by the number of teams seeking a significant outfield bat. The Giants, who hit the fewest home runs in the Major Leagues this year, are known to be looking for a power hitter to play left field. The Red Sox, who ranked at the bottom of the American League in homers, also could have interest in Upton, depending on the outcome of their run in the postseason. Boston could trade an outfielder -- likely Jackie Bradley Jr. -- for a starting pitcher, in order to clear a spot for Upton or Martinez.
The Angels have strong interest in retaining Upton or pursuing Martinez, since they have a long-term need in left field and newfound payroll flexibility, following the expiration of Josh Hamilton's contract. The Cardinals also are expected to pursue a free-agent slugger, if they are unable to trade for Stanton or Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He has also covered baseball for FOX Sports, the Detroit Free Press, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.