The Atlanta Braves finished the season with a 96-66 record but came up short in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was despite Dan Uggla hitting .179/.309/.362 with 22 home runs, 55 RBI, 10 doubles and 171 strikeouts in 136 games. Uggla was essentially a black hole in a lineup that also featured B.J. Upton who hit .184/.268/.289 with just nine home runs, 26 RBI, 30 runs and 14 doubles in 126 games. Uggla and Upton had two of the worst seasons in baseball history. To complicate matters, Uggla is owed $26 million and Upton is slated to make $60 million. Can the Braves hope to improve if they continue to get this sort of production from two important players?
The answer, simply, is no. The Braves got by this season with pitching and Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton. There isn’t much the Braves can hope to do except hope that Uggla and B.J. Upton have bounce back seasons closer to their career norms. That might be asking a lot but right now it would be hard for the Braves to move either of those contracts unless they swallow a majority of their contracts and even then who would want either of those players at this point?
There were rumors that the Braves could ship Uggla and a prospect or two along with some cash to the Cincinnati Reds for Brandon Phillips but the Reds could find a better deal. Uggla is terrible on defense and, aside from power, offers very little else at this point.
It is partially because of these contracts that the Braves won’t be able to make a concerted effort to keep catcher Brian McCann, a catcher who will be entering his age 30 season next year. McCann will be in line to sign a very lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and several other teams looking to try and sign him.
There will be plenty of cash for teams to spend this off-season and very few impact players to spend it on which could inflate the market. The Braves are a better team with McCann behind the plate but there doesn’t seem to be anyway for them to keep him. Had the Braves not given Uggla and Upton their contracts they would surely have enough money to keep McCann and potentially invest in another bat.
The Braves, as it stands right now, might need a miracle to contend again next year. Their pitching will be there but they will be depending upon Uggla and Upton to have bounce back seasons with the hope that Jason Heyward and Justin Upton improve upon last year’s numbers. Is it impossible? No, anything is possible in baseball but it is not likely. Uggla has shown he is on the decline for the last two seasons. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton has been a player who has never lived up to the hype and remains, to this day, all potential and a ton of strikeouts.
It will be interesting to see what GM Frank Wren does to ensure the Braves not only make the playoffs but go deeper in them after three straight disappointing seasons. There is a lot of talent on the Braves but not as much translation into productivity. Will the Braves hope that talent finally translates or go out and bring in some help?