May 01, 2014

La Stella Time is Fast Approaching

Dan Uggla’s slash line through Wednesday night is .202/.258/.303.  Of his 18 hits (in 89 at-bats), two have been homeruns and three have been doubles.  He’s only walked five times while striking out 28 times.

Before we read too much into 89 at-bats, in Uggla’s last season with the Marlins he posted an OPS+ of 131.  Since then, his production has steadily declined:  107 OPS+ in 2011, 98 OPS+ in 2012 and 82 OPS+ in 2013.  His OPS+ this season is under 60.  So over the span of over 630 games Uggla has been in a free-fall, so this is not about freaking out over a small sample in 2014.

How much longer do the Braves stick with Uggla?  What are their options?

Uggla is signed through the 2015 season at $13 million per season.  Theoretically, according to Fangraphs’ WAR converted to dollars based on the cost of a win on the free agent market, $13 million could net a team the production of players in the range of 2013 Howie Kendrick, 2013 Marco Scutaro and 2013 Brandon Phillips.  Fangraphs estimated Uggla’s 2013 production to be worth $2.3 million.

Do the Braves have options to make it worth eating the remainder of Uggla’s contract?  They are paying $13 million regardless but with Uggla it seems the best they can hope for is a few million dollars worth of production. If they had an option/options to which they could pay somewhere around league minimum and get something like 2013 Howie Kendrick, 2013 Marco Scutaro or 2013 Brandon Phillips value out of, it would likely be worth releasing Uggla at some point soon and going with that/those option(s).

Well, the Braves have a second baseman in the minors who happens to remind me a lot of Howie Kendrick, in Tommy La Stella.  La Stella has walked more than he’s struck out in the minors and has hit over .300 in his pro career.  He lacks big-time power, so major league pitchers might throw him more strikes at that level and his walks might not translate.  But he he can hit and has a good approach at the plate.  So, like Kendrick, he might end up not walking a ton but he’ll still do enough damage to be a second-division second baseman.  This seems to be an improvement over Uggla who looks no better than around replacement-level at this point.

La Stella is not some extremely young prospect who needs more growth and development.  He’s 25, he’s in Triple-A this season and he has hit at every level.  His glove is a question mark but he seems capable in the field, and it’s not as if Uggla has ever been a Gold Glover.  There’s really not much more for La Stella to prove and the Braves have likely seen enough to know what kind of player he is.

I understand the loyalty factor with a veteran player, especially a veteran as highly regarded as Dan Uggla.  Uggla was here for the collapse in 2011, for the one-game playoff loss in 2012 and struggled through the 2013 season before being left off the postseason roster.  At this point, what would it say to other players if they give up on him after a month of the season?  And the fact is they owed him $13 million for 2014 and will owe him $13 million in 2015 regardless.  The Braves won 96 games with him in 2013 and are in first place with him now.  All of these factors are contributing to the patience they’ve had with Uggla.

But at some point it’s probably not worthwhile.  At some point all of that stuff will not be worth a possible upgrade in production.  At some point the Braves will look at the fact that they owe just under $26 million to their second baseman and they’ll want try their best to get close to $26 million worth of production.  Early-to-mid June seems like a reasonable time to asses it all.  They’ll probably have an idea at that point whether Uggla’s approach and the way he’s hitting the ball look any better.  They’ll obviously know more of what La Stella has done against Triple-A pitching.  Unfortunately for Uggla, unless he really impresses over the next month, I think his time with the Braves is coming to a close.



8 Responses to “La Stella Time is Fast Approaching”

  1. 1
    Nick Says:

    Outstanding assessment! I agree. Don’t wanna hate on Uggla but he just isn’t worth starting anymore. Can anyone give a good reason to continue playing him? He doesn’t have any real offensive or defensive value. No offense.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    Thanks, Nick. The only halfway legit reason at this point is because they still owe him almost $26 million through the end of next season. But they are paying that money anyway, so why not try to get as close to $26 million worth of production as they can with a player like La Stella (or possibly others)? And it’s not like they owe him for 4-5 more years.

  3. 3
    Nick Says:

    Yep!! I mean seriously…they can’t afford 400k to play La Stella??? I’m speachless!! Maybe they don’t wanna start his clock just yet?? But I’d rather see Pena, Pastornicky, or La Stella every game!

  4. 4
    Shaun Says:

    La Stella is 25. No need to worry about his clock because he’s going to be under team control through his prime, as it is.

    I think they just want to give Uggla one more chance for a little bit this season, especially when the committed to him going into the season. They couldn’t give up on him too soon after a few weeks. But we’re getting to the point where it’s becoming clear the trends from the last several seasons are still there, and it’s not just a small sample size thing.

  5. 5
    Nick Says:

    Exactly. I myself know that the trends are there!! That’s speaks for itself. I myself am very impatient. I apologize as a Braves fan. The offense issue the whole team has just further makes me short on patience.

  6. 6
    Shaun Says:

    Another think to consider: I think once the decision is made, they want to give La Stella a chance and not look back. So they are being extremely patient with Uggla.

  7. 7
    Nick Says:

    🙁 how much more patient can one be with a 34 year old that is just not much of what he used to be 🙁 but if it mean I gotta deal with it til then. No problem cause we all know…it has to be approaching faster than last year! And I’m just not liking Freddy…a lot at the moment. I don’t think I ever felt this way about Bobby. 🙁 I’m sorry as a Braves fan. But I am just not happy as a fan.

  8. 8
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