There has been some chatter in the past day or so about the notion that Atlanta is shopping Dan Uggla around. This originated as the speculation from a blog posting, but gained some better credibility with this tweet from David O’Brien today:
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) May 13, 2014
Let me be clear here, for I do not wish to advance unfounded rumors: I have seen no solid evidence thus far that a trade is in the offing. My personal opinion is that Atlanta will indeed try their darnedest to move him, but ultimately I do expect that a release is more likely than any other result. When? There are two scenarios, which I’ll cover later.
So all that said, what could a deal look like that would involve Dan? Let’s check that out.
The Blue Jays have one effective pitcher right now: Mark Buehrle. They also have a black hole at second base. Five guys have manned the keystone sack for them this year. The originally preferred player – Ryan Goins – is now in AAA after starting with a .150 average. The newest guy, Steve Tolleson, is actually hitting .318, but that’s over ten days and fueled by a single 3-for-4 day vs. Philadelphia. He’s 30 and has been a AAAA-type player. Of the five second basemen, Goins was the best on defense.
Yet the Blue Jays still sit today at 19-20, only 2.5 games behind the surprising Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. Even with a little bit of decent pitching, these guys could take off and run.
That’s the hook.
By some miracle, the Braves now have seven solid starting pitchers on their staff. They will have to part with one of them in order to also send Uggla as part of the package. A sizable check would have to go as well.
So who goes, and how big is that check? Well, there’s the rub.
I mentioned 2 scenarios earlier. Here they are:
- Earlier than June 15. David Hale and possibly a AAA arm such as Cody Martin.
- June 15 or later. Now guys like Gavin Floyd or Aaron Harang can be brought into the conversation (CBA restrictions forbid the trade of a newly-signed free agent until 6/15). [I don't think Ervin Santana would ever be part of the equation for Toronto, given the events surrounding his signing with Atlanta in the Spring]
- Both Floyd and Harang are on 1 year deals. They would be ‘rentals’, though Dan Uggla himself is under contract for another year. Nonetheless, one of these guys would likely be preferred by Atlanta as trade bait.
- Floyd (somewhat) and Harang (for sure) are relatively cheap. That might keep the conversation going with Toronto.
- Asking them to take Uggla is still a Big Thing. Thus, I believe that another arm – I am suggesting Cody Martin – would be necessary to make this happen. Martin is essentially ML-ready, but has no slot for the Braves. It would be a risk for Toronto to throw him into that AL East fire, but likely an acceptable risk, given their team ERA.
- $24 million. That’s the amount the Braves still owe Uggla. Floyd is getting $4m plus starting bonuses of up to another $4m. Harang is $1m. The money is balanced with players (quantity and quality). I’ll let the two teams figure out that math, though… that’s too much detail for this speculation.
- Ryan Goins. The Braves might have to take him back in the deal, but that’s okay: he goes to AAA while Tommy La Stella comes to Atlanta. But other than him, if you’re looking for something useful coming back to Atlanta… don’t hold your breath.
Why Would the Jays Do This?
Their pitching need is indeed that great. They were desperate for Santana in the Spring. Didn’t happen. Brandon Marrow went down – for a while, at least. J.A. Happ has been ineffective. Ditto R.A. Dickey. This kind of a trade gives them a chance to get decent pitching before the “trade season” so they can get back in the race early. Taking Uggla doesn’t actually change much for them at second base, except it makes them a little worse defense (on that astroturf).
Shouldn’t they just wait until the Braves want to trade somebody later? That won’t work for Toronto. Their farm system is truly uninspiring right now. They simply don’t have the trade chips to make a “normal” deal for pitching… others will win that competition every day.
If Uggla is ultimately released, then yes: anybody could pick him up for the major league minimum, with Atlanta paying off that $24 million through the end of 2015. But remember, Uggla isn’t the draw here: it would be the pitching and Dan is the price of admission to more-or-less exclusively negotiate with Atlanta to obtain pitching. If such a deal were to fail, though, then I believe he’s cut loose by June 15th at the latest.
Why Should the Braves Trade Away Pitching?
It is their strength. But yes, Harang, Santana and Floyd will all be gone in 2015. Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen may (honestly) never be back, but certainly won’t until maybe a year from now. That leaves Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and David Hale (if he isn’t traded). That’s only 3 or 4 arms… if all of them are healthy. So … 3 is less than 5…. how does that work?
This is where the Braves typically go out and find a free agent veteran pitcher to fill out the rotation or perhaps make a surprise signing or maybe even bring up a minor leaguer such as J.R. Graham or Jason Hursh. Regardless of how it gets done, there is likely some room for error there, so yes: one pitcher out of those seven can probably be traded away, if Dan can be moved – which in turn frees a bit more capital for more productive purposes.
I would not be crazy about moving David Hale – young, controllable pitchers with good starting experience in the majors are a rare thing – but it might take him if the Braves are serious about dealing Dan.
What About the Seattle Mention?
This comes about because Nick Franklin is hopelessly blocked by the (still bizarre to me) signing of Robinson Cano over the off-season. Dan Uggla, of course, wouldn’t be useful to them either, but the speculation (there’s that word again) is that the Mariners could use him at DH, a position that Corey Hart has been occupying this year.
Yes, Seattle could use some pitching too, but they aren’t nearly as desperate as Toronto. Additionally, their purpose for acquiring Dan Uggla is a lot less clear. Yes, Atlanta could either choose to use Nick Franklin or flip him for another prospect, but I really doubt that he’d even be part of the equation.
So there’s my take: the odds are still long, but there’s at least an outline of what could happen to move Uggla off-site. I hate that he’s now out there just gathering dust on the bench, but this is the state of things today – which it likely to remain for the next 2-4 weeks.