Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dan Uggla Hits the Trade Market

The Florida Marlins apparently have voiced their intentions to trade Dan Uggla, one of of the more consistent and underrated players in baseball. Uggla has two more arbitration years left and Florida expects him to get a bit more expensive than they would prefer. This gives other teams in baseball a huge opportunity to acquire an in-their-prime player who is not particularly expensive. The Marlins would like younger, cheaper, major-league ready options in exchange, so let's see if we can figure out the ideal landing spot for Uggla.

First however, I'd like to talk about just how good Uggla is. Uggla has played second base at a slightly below average level for the past four years, meaning he is not an asset with the glove but he probably will not kill you there either. A lot of teams expressing interest in Uggla plan to move him to third base, and I would expect him to be roughly an average defender at that position. As a hitter, Uggla comes from the "three-true outcomes" offensive philosophy. He strikes out a lot, walks a lot and hits a bunch of home runs. Unlike most guys of this mold though he actually hits a lot of doubles as well, which definitely helps. Last season he his slash line was .243/.354/.459 but he also posted the lowest BABIP of his career, meaning his numbers should have been a bit higher than that. In other words, Uggla is a very useful player to have on a team, not quite all-star caliber, but he is averaging over 3 WAR per season in his career.

So, what kind of team could particularly use Uggla, enough to want to trade for him? Well, they would have to be a team that would expect to be in contention or close to it next year, has a hole at second or third base and could use some power, particularly right-handed. Here are the teams that make the most sense in my opinion.

Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays were better than you think last year, Scoring significantly more runs than they allowed, and they also dealt with an insane amount of injuries to their pitching staff. They are also made up mostly of young on the rise players, and they still have Roy Halladay. However, they currently are slated to have Edwin Encarnacion as their starting third baseman and he not a great hitter and a brutal fielder. Toronto would probably have to give up one of their young pitchers and something else to get Uggla, but he plugs an obvious void for the team. He is not enough alone to push the Jays past the other monsters in the AL East, but it's a step in the right direction.

Minnesota Twins
Uggla is not really a player that fits what the Twins are typically looking for, which is unfortunate because he is a perfect fit for them. They currently seem to plan on starting Nick Punto at either third or second and I don't see how a team expects to go deep into the playoffs starting Punto everyday. The Twins two best hitters by far are both left-handed and Michael Cuddyer in the only right-handed player on the roster with power so Uggla helps to balance out the lineup.

Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are actually close to being competitive in their division. They have a lot of good young pitching and some decent role-players in the lineup but desperately need some more pop. It is also hard to imagine a team that has gotten less production out of the third base position than the A's the last couple of years, leaving a spot wide open for Uggla. They are already playing Jack Cust everyday, and Uggla is a right-handed version of him that can also play defense.

St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals had to scramble mid-season last year to plug holes in left-field and third base with one-year solutions, so both holes actually still exist. Why not fix the problem at third base before the season? With Mark DeRosa and Troy Glaus on their way out and Brett Wallace traded to Oakland, the best in house option might be David Freese who is probably not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations. The only possible power threats in this lineup beyond Pujols are maybe Ryan Ludwick or Colby Rasmus but neither is a sure thing yet so they could really use Uggla's 30 home runs.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are losing both Orlando Hudson and Ronnie Belliard to free-agency so second base it once again an area of need. They might be more inclined to go with a defense-first player considering their already potent lineup, but the Dodgers are never afraid to make a trade so the possibility cannot be denied. However, they may be more focused on the pitching staff and Uggla will make more than Hudson did last year, possibly putting him over what they would be willing to spend.

San Francisco Giants
This to me is the best spot for Uggla. Since the Giants are locked into Freddy Sanchez at second, they would have to play Uggla at third and move Sandoval to first base, where he is a better fit anyway, and dump the Garko/Ishikawa duo that just isn't going to get it done. With Bengie Molina on his way out, only two players on the current roster had double-digit home runs last year and also only two players with OBP's over .330. This is a team with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, but in desperate need for a bat. Buster Posey is almost ready, and he will help, but they need a lot more and the availability of Uggla is the perfect opportunity for them.

I could also see Uggla fitting in reasonably well with the Cubs, Braves, Rockies, Mariners and Phillies but don't think those teams make as much sense for various reasons; the Cubs have bigger needs elsewhere, the Phillies and Braves are both in-division and I don't think the Phillies would want to part with prospects to get him, the Rockies seem content with Barmes at second for some reason, and the Mariners probably would want a better defender for the salary Uggla makes.

There have also been reports that the Orioles have expressed interest in Uggla, and they do also need a third baseman. However, I think the Orioles are probably more than a year away at best, meaning they probably would not be ready to make a legitimate run at the division until after Uggla is due to hit the market. It is possible Baltimore believes they're closer than that or maybe they will just resign Uggla, but it does not seem like the best fit for me.

The Marlins should have plenty of suitors for Uggla and could probably get a decent haul for him. Each of the teams outlined above has plenty of reasons to go after Uggla but it is the Giants who stand the most to gain. They were a good team last year, even though they only had one good hitter on the roster, and they have a couple of prospects in Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner nearly ready to break into the majors. Adding Uggla might be enough to put them over the edge. With Los Angeles also in the division, San Francisco has to be aggressive if they expect to keep up and the door is now open for them to do so.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I doubt that anyone will agree with me on this, but I think the Jays are closer to contending than people give them credit for.

First of all, as you pointed out, their run differential was good.

Secondly, Lind is maturing and Snider might play a big part on the 2010 team.

Finally, and most importantly, is the injuries to their pitchers. They were missing so many good arms this year:

Casey Janssen
Scott Richmond
Shaun Marcum
Jeremy Accardo
Dustin McGowan
Jesse Litsch
BJ Ryan
Scott Downs

I'm not sure how many of those guys come back next year, but with so many good arms in place -- Roy Halladay, Jason Frasor, Ricky Romero, Brandon League, and Brett Cecil to name a few -- I think they are closer to contention than people think.

If I was them, I'd wait one more year to sell - at least wait to the deadline on Halladay - and see how the season pans out early on.

If Wells OR Snider shows any improvement, and some of those arms come back, we're looking at a formidable team.