No player has been under more scrutiny on the Atlanta Braves the past two years than Dan Uggla.
The second baseman has largely been a disappointment since being acquired via trade with the Miami Marlins following the 2010 season. He posted career-lows in batting average (.220), slugging (.384), OPS (.732), home runs (19) and RBIs (78) last season after posting a career low in on-base percentage (.311) in 2011. Fans have grumbled over the lack of production and high strikeout totals.
Despite his struggles, the Braves have stuck with Uggla for the most part (they briefly benched him last season). And whether fans like it or not, they will continue to do so in the near future.
Uggla’s 2013 spring training has sparked debate amongst fans on what to do with the 33-year old. In 19 games, he has a .182 average that includes just one extra-base hit and a team-leading 19 strikeouts. Can Evan Gattis play second base? Could Chris Johnson move over to second base? Should the Braves trade or cut Uggla? What about Tyler Pastornicky getting a look?
Those are all questions I have seen proposed by fans in frustration of his struggles. But, none of those scenarios are going to happen.
The main reason Uggla will remain with the Braves is the $39 million over three years they still have to pay. What team would trade for a 33-year-old showing signs of decline with that contract?
The Braves would have to eat most of that contract in the event of a trade, which is not a smart move for an organization with a small salary cap to work with. Paying a player on another team is the last thing the Braves want to do, and it could be disastrous if Uggla returned to his form with the Marlins.
Gattis and Johnson have no reps at second base, so I don’t see those as logical options. Both players are already considered defensive liabilities, and I can imagine how bad a position switch would be.
Could Pastornicky serve as a serviceable second baseman? He hit for a decent average last season at the MLB level, and his defense at second base would be better than it was at shortstop.
However, would it be worth it for the Braves to go with an unknown player who scouts say will be a .270-.280 hitter with little power, average defense and good speed? Or stick it out with a 30 home run player, who still produces positive offensive and defensive WAR numbers?
Uggla will likely never live up to the five-year $62 million contract he signed with the Atlanta Braves. But, the Braves have little options in year three of the contract. They will continue to work with him in hopes of a more consistent season. So Braves’ fans should stop worrying about alternate options at this point. Uggla isn’t going anywhere in 2013.