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Justin Upton likely to opt-out, become a free agent

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that “it’s increasingly likely” Justin Upton will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and test free agency.

Upton posted career-highs in home runs (35), RBI (109), and OPS (.901) this season between the Tigers and Angels, batting .273/.361/.540. He has four years and $88.5 million remaining on his contract, so by saying goodbye to the Angels, he’s banking on doing better than that on the market. Last year the biggest free agent deals for hitters went to Yoenis Cespedes at four years, $110 million, Dexter Fowler at five years and $82.5 million, Ian Desmond at five years and $70 million, Justin Turner at four years, $64 million and Edwin Encarnacion at three years and $60 million.

The other big free agent bats with whom Upton will be competing will be fellow former Tiger J.D. Martinez and soon-to-be-ex-Royals Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Hosmer will be 28 next season, Moustakas is 29 and Martinez and Upton are both 30. Neither Upton nor Martinez will be subject to qualifying offers given that they were traded mid-season. It remains to be seen if the Royals will put qualifying offers on their departing free agents, thereby limiting their market, but at least Hosmer should get one and possibly both of them will.

 

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.