July 15, 2012

Uggla Trade Could Open Up Possibilities

Dan Uggla’s tenure with the Braves has been a roller-coaster ride, with a 33-game hitting streak, impressive power displays and cold spells.  Overall he’s been good offensively but not quite the impact guy he was in a couple of seasons with the Marlins.  His defense hasn’t been good, as expected.  Uggla is signed for $15 million through 2015.  According to Fangraph’s estimates, he was worth $11.4 million last year, in 2011 free agent dollars.  He had a couple of $19-$20 million seasons with the Marlins.

Given that Uggla is locked up through age 35 and, while his contract isn’t awful, it isn’t exactly a bargain, it may be time this offseason to explore an Uggla trade before his production declines more.  The Braves clearly have a couple of rather significant holes to fill for 2013 in centerfield and leftfield/thirdbase, plus they may want to upgrade the pitching staff, given the issues this season and the fact that Brandon Beachy will be out until towards the end of the 2013 season.

Even if Uggla isn’t quite the player he once was, the Braves could still sell to another team that they would likely get decent offensive production out of guy capable of playing secondbase.  Even if he slips to something below league-average in offensive production, the fact that he’s at least serviceable as a secondbaseman means he would still have value.  Plus there is always the potential that he will provide plenty of power from the secondbase position.

Just exploring trading Uggla would likely send red flags to other teams.  Teams may think, “Why would the Braves send away a player they signed to a long-term deal not too long ago?  Clearly they lack confidence in him.”  For this reason along with his age and his lack of defensive value, the Braves may have to eat a bit of his contract.  So it would be sort of similar to the Derek Lowe trade, though hopefully not that extreme.  I would think the Braves could get a better return for Uggla, even with the signs that he’s not quite the same player he ones was, simply because there is still the promise that he can be a 20-30-homer-a-year secondbaseman.

I doubt an Uggla trade would give the Braves equal value in terms of player quality.  Sure, they could probably get something of value.  But I think the move would be more budget related, similar to the Lowe deal, although hopefully the Braves could get a little more for Uggla than they got for Lowe, either in the way of more salary relief or a better player/better players or a little of both.

The downside to trading Uggla, besides the Braves likely would just be doing it for salary relief and wouldn’t get equal player value in return, is that the Braves would lose a secondbaseman with tremendous offensive potential.  Obviously secondbasemen capable of 30-homerun seasons are hard to find, even if they aren’t outstanding hitters or great at getting on base.  This is also what would make Uggla attractive to other teams and make it possible to shed his contract, if need be.

The Braves probably don’t have to shed salary by trading a player on their current roster.  They have some salary coming off the books this offseason and could likely fill their holes without making moves.  But trading Uggla could very well allow them to fill those holes more effectively.  It may allow them to get a quality bat in left and a solid centerfielder, perhaps it would even increase their chances to re-sign Michael Bourn.  Also, it may free up some salary space if they want to go after a good starting pitcher, say, if they were to make a run for Zack Greinke.  They may take a hit at secondbase but it could open up the possibilities elsewhere and end up being a net gain.

Whether it would be wise to explore an Uggla trade likely depends on the Braves’ options to fill the holes at centerfield and leftfield/thirdbase and whether they feel they need a significant upgrade in the pitching staff.  They probably do not know all of the options just yet as things could change rapidly in the trade market and free agent market between now and Spring Training 2013.  I’m not necessarily for or against trading Uggla just for the sake of trading him.  He’s likely to provide plenty of value over the length of his contract.  But Uggla is the one player on the roster locked up until his mid-30′s who has a somewhat expensive deal.  He’s probably the first place to look if the Braves think they could be better off taking a bit of a hit at second for the overall health of the Whether it would be wise to explore an Uggla trade likely depends on the Braves’ options to fill the holes at centerfield and leftfield/thirdbase and whether they feel they need a significant upgrade in the pitching staff.  They probably do not know all of the options just yet as things could change rapidly in the trade market and free agent market between now and Spring Training 2013.  I’m not necessarily for or against trading Uggla just for the sake of trading him.  He’s likely to provide plenty of value over the length of his contract.  But Uggla is the one player on the roster locked up until his mid-30′s who has a somewhat expensive deal.  He’s probably the first place to look if the Braves think they could be better off taking a bit of a hit at second for the overall health of the team.

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6 Responses to “Uggla Trade Could Open Up Possibilities”

  1. 1
    Walker Says:

    I’m against trading him. The whole reason we got him was because we needed a right handed bat. If we trade him we would basically be looking again for the very thing we traded. So we trade Uggla and we get a second baseman in return. We then sign Grienke. And we would then have to trade prospects to get another big righthanded bat. It would be an outfield bat that we wouldnt be able to sign to a decent deal like Uggla’s deal. Uggla’s contract is not bad at all.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    Walker, thanks for reading. I’m not particularly for or against it, in a vacuum. It all very much depends on what kind of possibilities it opens up.

    If it means acquiring Greinke, a very good all-around leftfielder and possibly a centerfielder like Bourn, I think it would be well worth it. I think the Braves could be better off in that scenario, even with someone merely just above replacement level at secondbase.

    I’m just thinking Uggla may be the first place to look to clear up some budget room. But I’m not for trading him just because I think he has a bad contract (while not ideal because of the sheer number of years, I agree it’s not that bad). Obviously they should only look to trade him if it makes the whole team better or it makes it as good as it would likely be with him but opens up some budget room down the road.

  3. 3
    Carlos Collazo Says:

    The thing with Uggla is that even when he’s cold and not getting his hits, he is still taking walks and getting on base. That is extremely valuable in my opinion, but like you said there is no reason to not consider it if the different possibilities come up. Interesting idea, and good read.

  4. 4
    George Says:

    I think trading him is a bit premature. One thing about him is he can often hit off of pitchers that throw in upper 90s. When he’s hot, he can intimidate another lineup…hopefully, he’ll heat up in the 2nd half.

  5. 5
    Shaun Says:

    George, I’m not advocating the Braves explore trading him because of his recent performance. I think the Braves might want to explore it because of his age and contract and, while he’ll provide value, he might not play up to his contract in the later years. But I can’t emphasize enough, I would only want them to trade Uggla and any other player if it makes the franchise better.

    I’m not advocating trading Uggla for the sake of getting rid of Uggla or in some kind of grand salary dump/fire sale. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they traded Uggla and increased the payroll. I’m just saying he’s the one player they have who may not perform up to his current contract in the later years and the one place where they could move a piece to open up possibilities in other areas. But if they trade Uggla and don’t really upgrade much in left/third, center and in the pitching staff, I’d just as soon they not trade him.

  6. 6
    scorekeeper Says:

    The Braves might consider trading Uggla for an outfielder with power in the offseason. I think Prado should go to third base next year. Surely there are a few teams who would consider Uggla, and it wouldn’t seem like the Braves have no confidence in him if they wait till the offseason. But waiting until the offseason doesn’t help a club this year. If Atlanta can get more consistent hitting in an outfielder, then the middle infield might be a combination of Janish, Simmons, and either Wilson or Pastornicky. Hopefully Bourn stays and Constanza continues to improve.

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