Today is May 28th – marking three weeks since Dan Uggla lost his spot as the regular starting second baseman for the Atlanta Braves. Since that point, he has been used… “sparingly” is the word I’ll choose on this occasion: 14 plate appearances, 11 of which occurred during 3 starts. He has one hit over that stretch, though oddly enough, has scored 4 times. That stat line includes 4 walks, 4 strikeouts (three in this 5/23 start vs. Colorado). Dan’s last multi-hit game was on April 18, the date of his last extra-base hit as well. He’s now hitting .177 and slugging .257 with a .254 OBP.
Moreover, his replacements haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard, either. The three-headed beast consisting of Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky, and Ramiro Pena have combined in May to go 14 for 98 (.142) with 12 walks and 26 strikeouts. Pastornicky leads this trio – if you can call it “leading” – with a .505 OPS for the month. He’s also the only one above the Mendosa line at .214.
Something’s Gotta Give
We know why Pena is on the roster: switch hitter, late-inning defensive replacement, and has a little speed. So playing him regularly at second base actually hurts Atlanta, because it robs the roster of that role whenever needed. But clearly, he’s not hitting at all like what we’ve seen before from him. Pastornicky is present… well, pretty much because Dan still is. He has speed, and that’s actually his best asset: pinch running. Oh, but we also have Jordan Schafer for that.
So in short, we have three roster spots currently occupied by ineffective players whose roles are limited in the best of circumstances, and whose utility to the club is enhanced only with offensive production – which is simply not happening. In Dan’s case, we’ve blamed his eyes, we’ve assumed he’d eventually hit out of it, we’ve been happy seeing the occasional flashes of brilliance. But no more: his defense is poor (and suddenly has developed a case of throwing high to first base) and his hitting is simply not improving.
Here’s What the Braves MUST Do
- Release Dan Uggla
- Option Pastornicky to Gwinnett
- Release Ramiro Pena
…and the corresponding moves…
- Recall Philip Gosselin
- Recall Joey Terdoslavich
- Purchase the contract of Tommy La Stella, placing him on the 40-man/25-man rosters
I had considered suggesting a release of Jordan Schafer as well. News recently came around that the Red Sox are looking for Center Field help – if they were interested, then I’m suggest a modest trade to drop him off there after Thursday’s game. But he’s still the best option available to Atlanta to support any of the three OF positions in a pinch, so he still fulfills a necessary role. And he’s fast.
In the meantime, Gosselin is hitting .335 (.356 OBP) at AAA while La Stella is now at .293 (.359 OBP, 25 walks vs. 14 K). Bring them both up as platoon partners for a while, with La Stella taking over the full time role soon. Gosselin can play all over the infield, so he can fulfill the role – along with offense – that Pena has been doing. Joey T.’s bat has cooled considerably since a torrid mid-April to mid-May stretch, but he’d still be a decent option – and another switch-hitter off the bench. If I were to make only two of those three moves, then leaving Terdoslavich at Gwinnett would be the odd one out.
If a deal could be made to move Schafer, then Todd Cunningham would be a viable replacement (.296/.341 with 8 steals).
Bold moves like these would remove three non-productive players and insert three productive ones: that is what this team needs right now since they are easily the worst in the majors in having run-scoring oppotunities (lowest number of Runners in scoring position plate appearances). I’m sure the Front Office would rather give La Stella a full season at Gwinnett, but (a) he’s already 25 years old – he’s not gonna ‘mature’ any more; and (b) the three 2nd sackers currently employed are not producing. That hand is being forced.
There’s no longer a point to waiting any longer.