Mariners' Justin Upton refuses minor league assignment, becomes free agent

SEATTLE -- Justin Upton is a free agent again.

The Seattle Mariners optioned Upton to Triple-A Tacoma on Friday, and the veteran refused the assignment and chose to become a free agent for the second time this season.

Seattle made the move to create space on the roster after outfielder Kyle Lewis was activated from the seven-day injured list after recovering from a concussion.

Upton, who was released by the Los Angeles Angels after spring training, signed a one-year deal with the Mariners on May 21. The 34-year-old joined the big league squad on June 17 after spending a few weeks in Triple-A and hit .125 with six hits and one homer in 48 at-bats.

Upton's homer came July 2, when his solo shot tied the game at 1 in a 2-1 victory over Oakland.

"Justin Upton added a lot to our team, and that did not show up in the box score or the stat line," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "He joined our team at a point where we were struggling. ... It was super valuable, really valuable."

The Mariners entered a game Friday against Houston on a 14-game winning streak, one shy of the franchise record set in 2001.

Upton is still being paid $19.5 million this season by the Angels, the remaining balance of a $106 million, five-year contract he signed in 2018.