Dan Uggla Gets His Extension

Shortly after the Braves acquired Dan Uggla we heard that the two sides were discussing an extension. The Marlins had previously failed on that front, as Uggla rejected the team’s four-year, $48 million offer. It took a little more than a month to finish the deal. The two sides finalized it yesterday, agreeing to five years and $62 million. The Braves now have someone to man second or third for the forseeable future, but will Uggla’s production match his price tag?

It’s hard to argue with Uggla’s offensive track record. Since he debuted as a Rule 5 pick for the Marlins in 2006 he has produced at least a .345 wOBA. During those five years the only second baseman with more WAR is Chase Utley, and only Utley, Ian Kinsler, and Robinson Cano have a higher wOBA. Last season, perhaps Uggla’s best, the only second baseman to out-hit him was Cano.

On defense both UZR and DRS have shown Uggla to be something of a liability. In his five seasons he has a -22 UZR, -4.5 per 150, and -29 DRS. Both marks put him well below his peers. He might regain some defensive value if he slides to third base when Chipper Jones retires, but then again there’s no guarantee that he can handle the transition.

We’ve already established Uggla as one of the game’s premier second baseman, and in that regard he appears to deserve the extension he got. He likely could have done a bit better than that if he hit the free agent market next off-season after earning around $10 million in 2011. That’s not to say that he’s a clear case going forward. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projects Uggla to hit .259/.346/.469 next season, a 116 OPS+. Unsurprisingly, those are right around his career marks. The only noticeable drop-off is in power. ZiPS projects a .210 ISO against Uggla’s career average of .224.

In some ways it might benefit Uggla to leave behind Florida and the Teal Monster. Surely he’s had a few home runs that had the distance, but not the height. Turner Field should be more friendly in that way. The left field wall is only five feet further, but considerably shorter. The problem might come with the gaps. At Sun Life Stadium the left-center gap measures 361 feet, while at Turner it measures 380. Since Uggla is a pull hitter, this extra room in the gaps could mean outfielders run down more of his balls in play.

There are certainly concerns about Uggla’s future. He’ll be 31 next year, so the contract takes him through his age-35 season. In his off-season buyer’s guide to middle infielders, ESPN’s Keith Law notes that he doesntt “want to be on the hook for his age 34 or 35 seasons, by which point his defense will probably have moved him off second base.” If he can slide over to third, that should be fine. Even a move to left field, where he probably still won’t play good defense, wouldn’t be all that bad considering his bat. We’ve seen plenty of players maintain production through age 35.

While the Braves didn’t get a steal here, they did lock up one of the league’s top second baseman, and one of the league’s top bats, for a slightly discounted rate. For a quick comparison, he and Robinson Cano are in the same year of service, and Cano stands to make a bit more over the next three years — $10 million this year followed by $14 and $15 million options in 2012 and 2013. Uggla’s contract calls for an average annual value of $12.4 million. Even if he has to move to third, or to left, his bat will still play well. For a team in need of offense now and in the future, the Braves did pretty well with this extension.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


28 Responses to “Dan Uggla Gets His Extension”

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  1. Mick says:

    Check out his defensive home/road splits, and compare them to Hanley Ramirez’s, he’s actually a MUCH better fielder than given credit for, considering the crappy ass playing surface he played on at sunturd stadium.

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    • DKulich44 says:

      I don’t believe trusting in home/road UZR splits is a good idea. Small sample size is already a major factor in looking at UZR, and you are just further making that sample smaller. But something like SunLife Stadium could be causing the major splits, it may be something interesting to look at over a long period of time for more than just two players.

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  2. cpebbles says:

    I’m actually skeptical that Uggla would have been offered more on the free agent market. 2Bs his age seem to come up short in the free agent market very consistently.

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  3. Ryan says:

    I know that home/road splits on defense aren’t as useful as hitting splits due to sample size, but the splits over his 5 full years are statistically significant. Uggla’s UZR is -26 at home and 3.4 on the road. You can’t look at those numbers and just write off that fewer defensive opportunities mean never split the sample size. This is obviously an exception (also, he’s a middle infielder with more attempts). You need not look just at the numbers though. You can just look at the dump called Sun Life Stadium.

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  4. Beer me! says:

    As a Braves fan, I have to say this extension is scary and totally unnecessary. The Braves already had Martin Prado who is a 4-win second baseman. Acquiring Uggla for peanuts and paying him $10m in arb for 2011 made a ton of sense. Extending him into his age 35 season on team with a shrinking payroll, no sense at all. Sorry, I just don’t see any way this is a good idea.

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      I kind of see your point about the shrinking payroll but remember Chipper’s $16MM a year is going to be off the books after next season so replacing that with Uggla’s $13.5MM average from 2012-2015 is actually a net positive. And even if he’s just 80% of the player he was last year that still makes him a Top 5 2B in the game. Throw in the fact that the Braves have no real middle infield or 3B prospects close to the big leagues this deal was a no-brainer IMO…

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      And also you need to look at it not as Dan Uggla replacing Martin Prado at 2B, but look at it as Martin Prado replacing the crapfest in LF that was Melky Cabrera & Matt Diaz. If you do that you see that 2b stays at about 3 or 4 WAR but LF will improve from about 1.5WAR to 3 or 4. And that IS significant…

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    • Scott says:

      Also the Braves new core of McCann, Hanson, Heyward, Freeman are entering their prime years soon, so it makes sense for them to pay market value or overpay for wins from Uggla when those wins could get them a playoff spot in the next 2 or 3 years.

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      • Nik says:

        Lets at least see Freeman play as a regular before calling him a part of a core entering their prime.

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      • brendan says:

        this. even if you discount freeman, it seems clear the braves are in a ‘contention’ phase. I like the move to get an immediate upgrade, for at least the next 3 yrs.

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  5. Bo says:

    It makes sense in that Chipper is almost a lock to retire after this year. Have you seen what else (aside from Prado/Uggla) the Braves have to step in at third? It isn’t pretty. Good call locking in another spot in the infield and middle of the order for the next few years. Between Prado, Uggla, McCann, Heyward and Freeman, the heart of the order looks set for the next 5 years.

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    • Adam says:

      Chipper is unlikely to retire after this year unless he is really horrible. His contract runs through next season (2012) and he is likely to retire then.

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  6. AustinRHL says:

    Don’t second basemen age fairly poorly in general? And Uggla more or less has old-player skills, so I’m not optimistic about his production five years from now. When I take a step back, the contract does seem likely to be worth it when inflation is factored in, but my first reaction was definitely “this looks like a bad idea.” I’m skeptical, at any rate, that he actually was going to get more than $52 million over four years as a free agent next year, since as cpebbles noted, I do get the impression that second basemen really don’t get that much money as free agents.

    The observation of the home/road UZR is very interesting, though – it looks like it might actually be reasonable to call him a slightly below-average fielder rather than a clearly below-average one.

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  7. Phantom Stranger says:

    As a Braves’ fan, the deal seems fair. The market for free agent contracts is only going up, as evidenced by this offseason. In that sense, the Braves did a bit better than retail price for Uggla. Is Uggla a great player? No, his defense is average at best and he is old for his position. They clearly wanted an established player for the next few years to fill the void after Chipper leaves. I could easily see this contract following the path of Michael Young’s recent tenure with the Rangers, as a questionable defensive player who is a decent hitter get moved around the diamond according to team need.

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  8. Ed Nelson says:

    Has anybody seen the horrible sinkhole that is 2nd base coming into the 2011 season? Great deal for the Braves.

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  9. ABravesFan says:

    I am liable to be clouded by my optimism as a Braves fan but the deal is fair to me in that the Braves locked up the remaining prime years of Uggla’s career at a bit of discount. At least for the next three years, this deal helps the team (and who knows maybe there will be a new owner at some point). The downside of the Uggla deal will coincide with the plethora of overpriced deals for the Phillies.

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  10. Twon2012 says:

    No one is mentioning the most important thing about Uggla… He is a right handed power hitter. Heyward, McCann, and Freeman are all left handed and Prado is a top of the order hitter. The Braves were dying for a RH bat to hit cleanup to balance out this lineup. In Uggla they got their man and got him cheap. His defensive shortcomings, age, and moderately large contract are a small price to pay for a near perfect fit which they acquired dirt cheap. Sure I would have loved to have Matt Kemp or Jason Werth but this is the real world.

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  11. chuckb says:

    Just because his defense is likely to move him off 2nd base by years 4 and 5 of this contract doesn’t, by itself, make it a bad one. Even if Uggla can’t slide over to third, he strikes me as the kind of player who could move to LF or 1B if necessary. In fact, the Braves should probably put him in LF now and keep Prado at 2B. Freeman may not work out at 1B for whatever reason and LF seems a reasonable option if he does. To me, it’s likely that Uggla keeps most, if not all, of his value by years 4 and 5.

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    • Nik says:

      low .800s OPS and no speed will not be worth 13MM in LF.

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      • Adam says:

        No, it won’t. But he will outperform the contract in the early years. All in all, it seems to be about an at-value contract, maybe a bit of a bargain for the Braves, but that is probably due to one arbitration year being in the contract.

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  12. Ross says:

    Anytime you sign a guy to an 8 figure contract for the next 5 yrs of his decline phase you have to do it.

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    • Sam says:

      It may be a little pointless to say this. Every player has a decline phrase. The Braves got a little desperate (a few years without a legit right-handed power hitter will do that to a team), but the risk they took is ultimately a sensible one. They can’t continue to have Brian McCann as a cleanup hitter and hope upon hope that Jason Heyward cranks out 40-homer seasons on a regular basis.

      We get a tendency to treat the concept of “decline phase” like it’s a hard and fast rule. No one has any idea what will happen to Uggla after his Age 31 season. He could age like Jeff Kent, or he could drop off the map like Marcus Giles.

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  13. Doug Bies says:

    What about accounting for area in left, closer to center @ Sun Life where the dimensions are greater than 400 feet? Maybe a surface area comparison from left to center for Sun Life vs Tuner Field would be a good idea instead of only referring to the LCF gap.

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  14. You picked a good topic for this post and you wrote about it well. I have seen a few other sites with similar content but no 1 has done a better job than you on writing about it.

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