Results tagged ‘ Dan Uggla ’

Uggla and Gonzalez gear up for Fish

Welcome back to Disney for the resumption of the Grapefruit League schedule.  After enjoying their only offday during Spring Training, the Braves will return to action this afternoon to play the most important game Disney has ever hosted in March. 

Forget about that Domincan Republic-Venezuela game in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  This afternoon’s matchup against the Marlins is much bigger for former Fish Dan Uggla and Fredi Gonzalez. 

In fact the Braves called a closed door team meeting this morning and sources have said Uggla went all Chris Brown on some bathroom mirrors after this video was shown.

Truthfully, these Marlins-Braves matchups will truly mean a little more once the season arrives.  In fact, today’s game appears to be a sidebar to the other events unfolding here today.

Luis Salazar returned to camp this morning for the first time since March 9, when he was hit with a foul ball and suffered injuries that cause him to lose his left eye last week.  Per his Twitter account (@LV_Ware) Minor League outfielder L.V. Ware said, “Just seen Luis Salazar & he is good spirits.” 

Salazar is scheduled to talk to us around 10 a.m. It’s remarkable that he is able to do all of this just two weeks after enduring a traumatic experience that could have ended in a much more tragic manner.  

Check MLB.com and braves.com later this morning for a report.  You can also follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman.

There will also be some attention pointed in the direction of Tommy Hanson, who is scheduled to throw six innings against a group of Braves Minor Leaguers this morning.  Because Hanson’s back was a little sore, the Braves pushed this start back two days.  No big deal, but it will be interesting to see what the big redhead says after this outing. 

With the end of the exhibition season one week away, there are still some questions to be answered.  It’s still not clear who will win the last couple spots on the bench?  I’ll stick with Ed Lucas and Brooks Conrad as my guesses. 

Once Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor make their scheduled starts this weekend, there might be more clarity about which will be named the fifth starter.  But for now, I’m sticking with Beachy.  If you want to see my argument against Minor go back to a number of different blogs posted throughout Spring Training.  The short of it is, he needs more time.

The Braves also need to fill the final spot in their bullpen and as time has passed it has seemed less likely that Scott Proctor will fill it.  Cristhian Martinez has emerged as a favorite because he can work multiple innings and serve as the “swing guy” in the pen.  But Jairo Ascencio, formerly known as Luis Valdez, has been making multiple-inning appearances and looking like the more impressive option. 

Before I wrap up this morning, I have to ask how many of you would have provided the same response I did when my wife was telling me the “special” numbers she had chosen for last night’s Mega Millions drawing. 

Of course if they were so “special”, I wouldn’t be composing this blog and getting ready to watch the Braves and Mets play today. Sorry it’s just become habit to write that.  It’s still the Marlins this afternoon. 

Anyhow, when she asked me to guess which numbers she had selected, I correctly guessed “1” because she was born in January.  Then after I guessed wrong with a couple numbers, she said “29” and I responded with “John Smoltz?”

After going silent for a few minutes, she said, “I can’t believe you would say that? Do you not remember we got married January 29?”

It didn’t work when I attempted to save myself by saying, “Funny you should mention that.  I was watching old footage of Smoltzie the other day and every time I saw his jersey number, I thought about our anniversary date.”   

Wren takes a neccessary gamble on Uggla

Over the past few years I’ve heard some Braves players and coaches complain about the fact that the front office has not been able to make the likes of Gary Sheffield, J.D. Drew and Mark Teixeira anything more than short-term rentals. 

Sheffield, Drew and Teixeira each made an impact during their short stays in Atlanta.  But they weren’t given the opportunity that awaits Dan Uggla, courtesy of the five-year $62 million contract extension he and the Braves agreed to Tuesday night.

Uggla gained the fifth guaranteed year that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wondered would be granted by another club. 

When talking to the Marlins about a five-year deal, Uggla was believed to be asking for $71 million.   So for now, it could be said that the Braves gained somewhat of a bargain. 

But as we all know, deals of this magnitude will only prove to be a bargain if the expected production is maintained over the life of the five-year deal.  

Braves general manager Frank Wren has made an aggressive commitment by giving Uggla this five-year deal, which includes the highest annual average salary  ($12.4 million) ever given to a second baseman.

Consequently, Wren has opened himself up to the criticism that he and each of his peers are forced to take any time they do something out of the ordinary.

But I’m guessing that Wren will be sleeping much more
comfortably than Nationals GM Mike Rizzo might any time he attempts to
break down the seven-year, $126 million contract he provided Jayson
Werth, who just happens to be 10 months older than Uggla.

Here’s a look at the numbers produced by Werth and Uggla over the past three years: 

Uggla:  .264 BA, 96 HR, 95 doubles, 11 SB, 287 RBI, .855 OPS 

Werth: .279 BA, 87 HR, 88 doubles, 53 SB, 251 RBI, .889 OPS  

Werth would certainly be considered more valuable from a defensive perspective and he has already proven to be valuable for championship-caliber teams in the heat of the postseason. 

But can you justify him getting nearly two times the amount as Uggla spread over two additional years?  

Not within the realm of the business model utilized within this baseball world that simply forces fans to routinely debate things like the value Uggla might bring over the course of five seasons. 

Some have already questioned how productive Uggla will be when he’s 35 years-old and entering the final year of this contract.  Others have already grown concerned about the possibility that his defensive liabilities could trump his offensive contributions over the life of a five-year deal.

These are both legitimate concerns, especially now as improved drug policies have seemingly made players north of 35 to once again be classified as “aging”.  But in reality, none of us, Wren included, knows exactly what Uggla will end up doing over the length of this contract.

As Andruw Jones was preparing to enter the free-agent market following the 2007 season, I wrote a story that was essentially based around the “buyer beware” theory.  After watching him on a daily basis, I had gained a sense that playing on a daily basis for so long had taken a toll on his legs, which were supporting a frame that had added a few pounds over the previous few years.

The story infuriated his agent Scott Boras, who basically told me I was ignoring what many of the other great players had recently done in their 30s. But it certainly didn’t influence Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who gave the veteran outfielder an ill-fated two-year, $36 million contract.

Colletti certainly didn’t know Jones would hit .158 and total three homers while lasting just one year in Los Angeles.  Nor did I envision that Andruw would hit just .204 with a .724 OPS over the course of these past three seasons.

After watching Jones on a daily basis over the previous six months, it was simply obvious that he was in decline.  It certainly didn’t take a genius to figure out that he simply didn’t look like himself while hitting .222 with a .724 OPS in 2007.

Considering that Jones’ demise with the Dodgers happened while he was 31 years-old might not be encouraging within the framework of a story about Uggla, who will hit this age in March. But there really isn’t any comparison here.

Jones played a much more grueling position on an everyday basis for 10 consecutive years before he began his rapid decline.  Entering just his sixth Major League season, Uggla enters 2011 with plenty of momentum. 

While .287 with 33 homers and an .877 OPS this past summer, Uggla solidified his place as one of the game’s best offensive second basemen.

Over the past three seasons, Uggla has hit .264 with 96 homers and 287 RBIs.  He’s totaled 16 more homers and 21 more RBIs than any other Major League second baseman during this period.

Uggla  has hit at least 30 homers in each of his past four seasons and the 154 homers he has compiled over the past five seasons are 20 more than the total amassed by any other Major League second baseman. 
 
Philadelphia’s Chase Utley and New York’s Robinson Cano are the only second baseman to produce an OPS greater than the .837 mark that Uggla has posted during his first five Major League seasons. 

Uggla’s .488 career slugging percentage ranks as the fifth-best mark among second basemen in Major League history and his .837 mark ranks 10th. 

Looking simply at these numbers, Uggla has a chance to be considered one of the best second basemen the game has seen.  But those who have watched him play on a daily basis have questioned whether he is best utilized as a second baseman.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has said all the right things when asked about the defensive skills he’s watched Uggla display essentially on a daily basis over the past four years. Others who have routinely watched the Marlins have said they are among those who view him as a defensive liability.

In a perfect world void of emotions, the Braves could have kept Martin Prado at second base and moved Uggla to left field for this upcoming season. 

But in this world that is filled with both oxygen and pride,they had no choice but to grant Uggla his wish to remain at second base.  If they had approached him about the possibility of making the move to the outfield, he would have likely spent his one year in Atlanta and entered next year’s free-agent market looking for a club to provide both riches and a chance to play second base.

If Uggla’s glove proves to be too much of a liability over the next few seasons, the Braves could always approach him about the possibility of changing positions. But for now the plan is for him to spend the next five seasons as Atlanta’s second baseman.

Check back some time during the 2015 season to see how a 25-year-old Jason Heyward is faring and to further debate whether Wren was wise to give Uggla the five-year deal way back in the early days of 2011.     

 

 

Braves still evaluating remaining needs

With the acquisition of Dan Uggla, the Braves gained the powerful right-handed bat that they were seeking to place in the middle of the lineup.  Now as Frank Wren constructs his Christmas wish list, he might want to request the acquisition of a creative accountant.

The Braves didn’t enter this offseason with a lot of financial flexibility and they obviously now have even less. With Uggla set to make around $10 million as an arb.-eligible player, the Braves essentially took on about $7 million payroll with last week’s trade with the Marlins (Infante $2.5 million and Dunn $450,000). 

Looking at the projected 25-man roster, the Braves could benefit from adding a veteran reliever and improving their depth in both the infield and outfield. With Diory Hernandez standing as the most likely candidate to begin the season as a utility infielder who can play shortstop, there would certainly be reason to believe this could be a priority. 

But before strengthening his outfield or infield depth, Wren may look to ensure he has enough money to provide Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters the influence of somebody who has previously closed in the Majors. 

Somebody like J.J. Putz would fit the description of what Wren is seeking in this role.  But Putz, who is drawing interest from the D-backs, could prove to be too expensive for the Braves who have these multiple roster needs and somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million left to spend. 

Wren might find some more financial breathing room if Kenshin Kawakami suddenly reveals that he is willing to return to his native land and pitch for one of the Japanese professional clubs that have said they are willing to eat a portion of the $6.67 million the Braves still owe him next year.

Before opening myself up to be criticized by those who believe I have bashed Kawakami while writing about this in the past, let’s remember that he’s not the one who offered himself the three-year, $23 million contract that he agreed upon before the start of the 2009 season. 

Nor has he had a chance to control the limited run support he’s received while going 8-20 with a 4.30 ERA in 41 career starts at the Major League level.

Still with this being said, it’s clear that Kawakami’s days of pitching for the Braves are complete.  At the same time, it’s become apparent that there aren’t too many Major League clubs currently showing strong interest in him. 

Even with the possibility that he might spend this entire season in the Minors, Kawakami has indicated he wants to remain in the United States.  If he returns to his native Japan, he feels he would erase his final opportunity to prove that he can be successful in the U.S.

Kawakami didn’t mind continuing to enjoy the U.S. lifestyle when the Braves optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett last August.  The ballpark was just a short drive from the suburban Atlanta mansion (formerly resided in by rapper Lil’ Bow Wow) that he has rented the past two summers.

I’m going to have to guess he won’t find these same luxuries in Pearl, Mississippi.  Now that he might have realized the Braves are more than willing to keep him on the Double-A Mississippi roster, he might have to at least start reconsidering the possibility of pitching for one of those Japanese clubs that have shown interest. 

There really shouldn’t be any Braves-related surprises Tuesday when all
Major League clubs must decide whether to make arbitration offers to
their free agents.  This deadline really only applies to first baseman Derrek Lee, who is their only free agent who was ranked a Type A or Type B free agent by the Elias Sports Bureau.  

While the Braves would certainly like to gain the draft pick compensation they would gain courtesy of Lee’s status as a Type A free agent, they certainly aren’t in position to deal with the consequences of him accepting the offer to gain a one-year deal worth at least $13 million.   

Braves acquire Dan Uggla

The Braves have landed All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla from the Marlins in exchange for Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn. 

Uggla is coming off a career-best season that included a .287 batting average, 33 homers and 105 RBIs.  The 30-year-old infielder could play left field for the Braves or at least provide insurance until Chipper Jones proves that he is able to return from ACL surgery. 

Uggla has no played any other positions other than second base since arriving in the Majors in 2006.  There is some belief he could play third base if necessary.  Or the Braves could opt to keep him at second base and position Martin Prado at third base or in left field.  

With Uggla, the Braves have gained the right-handed hitter they were seeking to add to the middle of their lineup.  He has hit at least 31 homers each of the past four seasons and a total of 154 during his five seasons in the Majors.

The Marlins began actively shopping Uggla once they were unable to sign him to a multi-year contract reportedly worth $48 million.  The two-time All-Star is entering his final arbitration-eligible season. 

With Infante’s departure, the Braves will begin pursuing another utility player to compensate for the versatility lost in this deal.  Infante’s value soared this year as he earned his first All-Star selection and ranked third in the National League with a .321 batting average. 

Chipper still weighing options about his future

Chipper-Jones.gif
When I sat down to write this blog, my plan was to take the angle that Chipper Jones will at least attempt to return next season.  But it appears to be too early to make this kind of assumption. 

Jones’ father Larry Jones told the Florida Times-Union, “Those people that are talking about him being done,he ain’t done.”  Those who know Chipper best realize that this isn’t the way he wants to say goodbye to his Hall of Fame-caliber career.  At the same time, I’ll count myself among those of you who believe he deserves a much more fitting goodbye. 

But before committing himself to the grueling six-month rehab process that he would face, Jones will first take time to talk to members of the Braves medical staff this afternoon to gain a better sense of what he is facing. 

Because this is the second time that Jones has torn the ACL in his left knee, it will be more difficult to find the graft needed to fix the ligament.   His left patellar tendon (kneecap) is no longer an option.  It was used to repair the ligament, when he suffered this same injury before the start of the 1994 season.

If they were to use his right patellar tendon, he would enter the 2011 season with two faulty knees and possibly set himself up to endure many more problems during his post-playing days.

Once Jones learns of all of his options and the potential setbacks, he’ll have the opportunity to determine whether it’s in his best interest to attempt to continue playing. 

When he was talking about retirement in June, he said that he would walk away if he felt he was no longer an integral part of the lineup.  Over the past two months, he proved that he still had the capability to be a key ingredient to the Braves success. 

But you can’t blame Jones for wondering whether he’ll be able to return from this surgery and still be able to provide his desired production next year at the age of 39.

chipper-237x300.jpg 

 
What to do: When asked yesterday about how he planned to react to the fact that Chipper Jones won’t be available for the remainder of this season, Braves general manager Frank Wren attempted to soften the blow by pointing out that manager Bobby Cox can now put two All-Stars in his infield on a daily basis. 

“When we get Martin Prado back, it will mean inserting two All-Stars into the lineup, he and Omar Infante,” Wren said.  “I’m not sure we’ll find anything better than that on the marketplace.”

The Marlins are planning to sign Dan Uggla to a multi-year deal.  In other words, if they were to trade him to the Braves, we’d probably soon be seeing Julio Teheran sitting in the same starting rotation as Josh Johnson.

The Braves talked to the Mariners about trading for Chone Figgins before the July 31 trade deadline.  At the time, they were hoping Seattle’s Japanese ownership might be willing to deal their bad contract for the one that has padded Kenshin Kawakami’s bank account. 

With former manager Don Wakamatsu gone, Figgins is happy and proving to be productive at the plate once again.  At the same time, with Kris Medlen done for the rest of the season, the Braves are no longer in a position where they can trade the insurance that Kawakami provides.

There have been rumors linking the Braves to Orioles third baseman Ty Wigginton.  But early indications are that the Braves aren’t going to add an everyday player via trade. 

But with Diory Hernandez and Brandon Hicks now situated to serve as the only backup shortstops, it seems they do have a need to at least find a better option to fill this role that Infante has capably handled since arriving in Atlanta.

While hitting .366 (41-for-112) in the 32 games (24 starts) he’s played dating back to the start of July, Infante has provided further reason to believe he could be a reliable everyday player.  But the sole reason he was given this All-Star status was the fact that his greatest value comes from his ability to be available to play a number of different positions. 

With Prado playing third base and Infante playing second base during the season’s final six weeks, the Braves have reason to believe they would still have a solid infield.  But if either of these guys or Alex Gonzalez suffers an injury, there will be a gaping hole in the lineup.    

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