Results tagged ‘ Jayson Werth ’

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.     



All is quiet on the Braves trade front

Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of TheJeff Francoeur Trade.  The Braves will  commemorate the event by spending this weekend playing against Francoeur and his Mets teammates at Citi Field.

Here at Bowman’s Blog, we chose to recognize the event Thursday, when we drew a steady wave of page hits courtesy of a player, who has previously drawn comparisons to Francoeur.

Once’s Peter Gammons mentioned Mike Minor and Corey Hart in the same tweet yesterday, Braves fans buzzed with curiosity.  From all indications, Frank Wren and his lieutenants simply sat back and recognized the fact that we are indeed in the middle of July’s rumor season. 

If there is a group of untouchables within the Braves organization, Minor ranks near the top of that list.  The 22-year-old hurler will likely be projected to be part of the 2011 Atlanta rotation. 

Yes, somebody will likely have to be moved to create a spot for Minor next year.  But for now, we should just focus on the belief that he will stay with the organization unless the Braves are blown away by the offer of a young affordable position player that they could control for at least three years. 

In other words, Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado will be sticking with the Braves unless another club is willing to offer a Jason Heyward-type player.  Last time I checked, the Marlins (Mike Stanton) and Tigers (Brennan Boesch) aren’t going to be willing to do this. 

The direction the Braves take leading up to the July 31 deadline will be heavily influenced by what Heyward shows when he returns from the disabled list after the All-Star break.  If he proves to be healthy and capable of being as productive as he was during the season’s first two months, there will be less need for Wren to pursue and everyday outfielder.

If Heyward provides confidence about what he could provide down the stretch, the Braves may simply look to add a bat to a bench that has been recently weakened while Eric Hinske and Omar Infante have been in the lineup much more often than originally projected. 

Matt Diaz’s return has already solidified the outfield mix.  If Nate McLouth is able to return from his concussion and provide some indication that he will be much more productive during the season’s second half, the Braves would then have the option of using either Melky Cabrera or Gregor Blanco as a trade chip. 

Blanco obviously has more trade value than the more-expensive Cabrera.  But more importantly, his performance over the past couple of weeks has given every reason to believe he can capably handle the center field position if McLouth isn’t able to regain his health or show the promise that was expected when the Braves acquired him last year.

If the Braves reach a point where they are seeking an outfielder to play on an everyday basis, Hart won’t be high on their wish list.  While producing a career-best season this year, Hart is setting himself up to earn $7-8 million via arbitration next year. 

The Braves would be hesitant making this kind of commitment to a player, who combined to hit .265 with 32 homers and a .757 OPS during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.  But the primary reason they wouldn’t offer the Brewers a highly attractive packages stems from the fact that Hart will be eligible for free agency at the end of the 2011 season. 

The Brewers have spent the past couple of years attempting to get the Braves to trade for Hart. Right now, it appears they’re still not ready to bite. 

Still the odds of Hart landing in Atlanta might actually be higher than those surrounding the possibility that Yunel Escobar will be traded before the trade deadline.   The Braves simply aren’t willing to sell low on a guy, who they still view as the game’s top defensive shortstop.

Manager Bobby Cox complimented Omar Infante the other day by saying he could be an everyday shortstop.  But it’s quite obvious that Infante wouldn’t bring the same defensive value as Escobar, whose presence strengthens the value of Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe, who both rank among the top three NL starters in groundball/flyball ratio. 

While the Braves may not currently be major players on the trade market, they could see one of their former hurlers influenced if the Yankees conclude their current negotiations to land Cliff Lee. 

If the Yankees do land Lee (and it appears they will), they will likely trade Javier Vazquez. One scout told me this morning that he was hearing Vazquez would be dealt to the Phillies in exchange for Jayson Werth. 

But with Chase Utley sidelined until at least the latter portion of August, I find it hard to believe that the Phillies would be willing to trade another key piece of their lineup to strengthen their shaky rotation. 

NOTES: Julio Teheran was scratched from his latest start with Class A Myrtle Beach to allow him to be ready to pitch in this weekend’s Futures Game. Mike Minor is also scheduled to pitch for the U.S. team. The game will be shown live by MLB.TV and ESPN 2 at 6 p.m. ET Sunday…Highly-regarded, 18-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo has hit .269 with two doubles and two triples in his first 26 at-bats since being promoted to Class A Rome. 


Braves set to conclude a memorable May

Before looking at how the Braves have positioned themselves to move into first place within any of the next three days, I want to thank my father, uncle and each of you who have given us this opportunity to take time today to remember why we have been afforded the chance to enjoy the freedoms provided us here in the United States. 

Based on the way the Braves have played over the course of the past three weeks, there was growing reason to believe there could come a point where they would start seriously challenging Philadelphia’s National League East supremacy.  But two weeks ago, when they sat a season-high 6 1/2 games back, there certainly wasn’t much reason to think they could enter June as the division leaders. 

With the Phillies having scored a total of seven runs while losing six of their past eight games, their manager Charlie Manuel brings a staggered bunch into Turner Field this week.  Winners of 15 of their past 19 games, the Braves enter this afternoon’s series opener just a half-game back in the NL East race. 

Over the course of the previous four seasons, the Braves never even held a share of first place after May 15.   In fact during the 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons, they never sat above second place this late in the season after April 12.

Now if Phil Niekro can get his arm loose and find some of his get his knuckleball to start dancing again this week, the Braves might really be able to prolong Philadelphia’s offensive woes this week.  

The Phillies have been shutout five times over the course of their past eight games and the only time they scored during any of the six losses that encompassed this span was when they tallied three ninth-inning runs after knuckleballer Tim Wakefield blanked them for eight innings on May 23.

Forty-eight hours after being handcuffed by Wakefield’s knuckler, the defending National League champs were blanked by the one delivered by R.A. Dickey.   This prompted Bobby Cox to playfully tell one of the members of his club’s media relations staff, “why don’t you throw Niekro in there as one of our probables for the Phillies series.”

“With that lineup, it’s just a matter of time before they bust loose,” Chipper Jones said. “Fortunately I like our pitching staff and I think our pitching staff can continue to hold them down.”    

With Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe set to take the mound this week, the Braves seemingly match up much better than the Phillies, who will not be sending Roy Halladay or Jamie Moyer to the mound during this week’s series. 

Like knuckleballers have been Philadelphia’s kryptonite, Moyer arguably had the same effect on the Braves when they endured their nine-game losing streak at the end of April.   The 47-year-old left-hander has allowed at least four earned runs in six of his first 10 starts this year.  But in two outings against Atlanta he has completed 15 innings without surrendering an earned run. 

Halladay marked the beginning of that nine-game losing streak and the next night Moyer prolonged it by throwing six scoreless innings at Turner Field.  Seven days later, the Braves had endured a nine-day stretch during which they had hit .223 and totaled 17 runs.

As miserable as that span seemed to be, the potent Phillies offense has actually been even worse recently.  During their past eight games, they have batted just .186 and tallied seven runs.

Within these eight games, the Phillies have missed Jimmy Rollins’ presence at the top of their lineup and seen Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth combine to hit .130 (11-for-84) with two extra-base hits  (a double and a triple). 

In the 16 games played since Martin Prado began handling the leadoff role on virtually an everyday basis, the Braves have hit .289 and scored 5.6 runs per game.  Whey exited Philadelphia on May 9, they had gone through the season’s first 31 games hitting .232 and scoring 3.9 runs per game. 

It appears this is a much different Braves club than the one that lost four of its first six games to the Phillies this year.   But if they are going to maximize the dividends created by the turnaround they have enjoyed this month, they need to make a statement this week at Turner Field. 

Exiting this series in first place would simply be a by-product of the more important opportunity to gain further confidence by claiming a series victory against these Phillies, who are currently vulnerable and always dangerous. 

NOTES:  If the Braves are able to claim a victory with Hanson on the mound this afternoon, they will have gone 20-8 in May.  In other words no matter what happens in this series opener, they will not lose more games during this 31-day stretch than they did during that forgettable nine-game stretch in April…Jason Heyward enters this series opener with an NL-best 1.017 OPS.  He’s legitimized his candidacy for an All-Star bid and also given reason to be an early MVP favorite…Prado leads the NL with a .325 batting average. Back when they were playing in the Minors, Brian McCann predicted Prado would win a batting title.  We’ll see if his words prove prophetic this year.

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