There is no other player for the Atlanta Braves who evokes more passionate opinion than Daniel Cooley Uggla. As long as Dan Uggla is a Brave, there will be fans and detractors, and the lines are pretty sharply divided. I will get hate mail for this, but I personally think that Dan has never been that valuable to the Braves. I would argue that getting him was a mistake to begin with. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and each year we have to deal with the reality that is Dan Uggla. Let’s look at that reality a bit closer, and then see if anything can be done to solve what I consider a big problem for the Braves.
You will recall that Atlanta acquired Dan Uggla in November 2010, as part of a trade that sent Mike Dunn and Omar Infante packing. Infante had been an All Star just the year before he was traded, and was batting a line of .321/.359/.416/.775, with 8 homers and 47 RBIs. Top that off with the fact that he was exceedingly better than Uggla at 2nd base, was cheap at a 2010 price tag of just $2.2 Mil, and you have to wonder about the wisdom of that particular trade. Mike Dunn is a similar story, and the lefty pitcher is now being reportedly courted by a number of teams despite the fact that the Marlins have said they would prefer to hold on to him. Do you think Atlanta might be able to use Dunn right now? Again, the 20/20 thing.
Dan has showed some signs of a pulse lately after getting new contact lenses (See our own Alan Carpenter’s Article on this subject), but is still on a line of just .204/.319/.419 so far this year, has struck out a whopping 111 times in 284 ABs, and is next to last in fielding percentage with a low .973. He has also committed more errors than any 2nd baseman with 10 in all, and that at just the halfway point. The most errors Dan has ever committed in a season was 18 in 2010, and he is on pace to surpass that dismal mark. Defensively and offensively, Uggla is regressing. I know that he has hit well lately, but he always has the habit of a bad first half, good second half, or visa versa. He rarely has a consistent season.
People recommend patience with Uggla. They argue he has a pretty high OBP for such a low average. That may be true, but of 17 2nd baseman, Dan is 17th in hitting, and his OBP of .319 is just slightly higher than only four other players on that list. It’s true that Dan has the 2nd most walks of any 2nd baseman with 47 (Just behind Dustin Pedroia‘s 48), but because Dan’s power is always a threat, he may not get the looks he wants. Looks or not, Dan is clearly patient, but the upside of any of his numbers simply don’t make up for the downside.
I won’t belabor the point, but bear in mind also that Dan Uggla is 33 years old, and most position players begin to seriously regress at his current age rather than get better. Dan has had moments of brilliant play, and fans keep waiting for that one, consistent break out year where he plays well from start to finish. Keep waiting!
What Could Be Done
If you agree with me on Dan Uggla, the question is what options do the Braves really have to deal with the problem? Ramiro Pena? No, he’s out for the season. Tyler Pastornicky? Yes, he is an option, but only a slight upgrade if that. Tyler is probably a slightly better fielder, but not enough of an improvement to be a day-to-day option right now. I would personally still use him in a platoon situation though. I realize not many will agree with me on that, and I doubt it would happen, but the added pressure of not being the guy at 2nd every day might motivate the competitive Uggla.
I have even heard some lament that the Braves should send Evan Gattis down to the minors to learn how to play 2nd. I suppose that is a possibility, but it’s not something I think we’re ever going to see. That leaves the Braves with either continuing to play Dan Uggla and hoping for improvement, platooning 2nd base with hopes of more consistent production out of two, or going the trade route. Let’s look at whether that is a viable option.
Trade Value For Uggla
The first question is whether there would even be any takers on the 33 year old? Even if Dan could be traded, it’s unlikely he would be on the block until next year, and the Braves would have to eat a considerable amount of money to unload him. Atlanta owes Dan 62$ Mil over 5 years, so a trade this year would be pretty expensive, and not cheap next year either. Also, with his numbers and growing age, Dan might still be an attractive option to some clubs, but there would probably need to be some additional bright and shiny packaging to go along with that.
Currently, I don’t believe there are any great package together with Uggla options. Paul Maholm might be the best option in 2014, but he’s too valuable for this season. His contract will be up, and he may demand too much money for the Braves to keep him next year anyway. Some say Tim Hudson might be a good package option as well. His contract is up at the end of the year as well, but will anyone be interested in a 38 year old righty who seems to be losing a step or two? Tim has also made it known he loves being a Brave, and wants to retire a Brave. There might be other options of course, such as Jordan Schafer or Reed Johnson or minor league selections, but someone will have to be dealt alongside Uggla to make it worth anyone’s while. Couple those issues together with the fact that the Braves typically think all they ever need are good pitchers, and Dan may be a Brave until his contract runs out and no longer costs the team any money.
If the Braves could somehow put together a deal to replace Dan Uggla this year (and I don’t think so), who would they be able to afford? Of the options currently out there, I can think of only one candidate that personally interests me – Daniel Murphy. He’s being paid almost $3 Mil, but hits better for average and is a better defensive 2nd baseman than Uggla. He is hitting this year on a line of .266/.304/.391, but has fanned only 49 times so far, and has 6 homers with 33 RBIs. The 28 year old New York Met is clearly a better long term option for the Braves.
Jose Altuve is an option, but the young, 23 year old is playing well, and playing for the Houston Astros who desperately need all the help they can get. He’s probably not going anywhere. There are other options you can find on MLB’s Market Central, and those are obviously not the only options, but pickens’ are slim.
Few other options exist this season that wouldn’t cost the Braves big money, or be a lateral move or downgrade. I don’t like it, but I believe that Dan will ride out the season at 2nd, hoping along with fans and the organization that he will have one of his upturns in the 2nd half. After 2013, I still don’t know what Atlanta will do, but if they’re smart they’ll figure out a way to trade Dan Uggla. What do you think?