The annual General Managers Meetings will take place this coming week in Orlando, FL. Every year, these meetings conjure up unexpected deals, seeing players move to new locales in trades previously unexplored.
Such a transaction took place between the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves back in 2010. Reportedly, Marlins GM Larry Beinfest scribbled the preliminary terms of the deal that would eventually bring Dan Uggla to Atlanta on a napkin and handed it to Braves GM Frank Wren. No one could have foreseen the pending irony in this deal – three years later, Uggla could well be the centerpiece of another unexpected transaction at the GM Meetings, this time Atlanta trying to offload him (make the irony double or nothing with the fact that the Braves may well look to replace Uggla with Omar Infante, whom they gave up to get him).
Other possible trade prospects Wren may be enticed into looking at include the Texas Rangers’ Ian Kinsler and Los Angeles Angels’ Howie Kendrick. Both players have limited, no-trade clauses built into their contracts, and are owed significant amounts of the money over the next several season (Kinsler $62 million over the next four seasons, Kendrick $18.85 million over the next two), but Uggla himself is owed $13 million in both 2014 and 2015.
The options in the free-agent market are no more tempting than those players available through trade. The New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano and Marlins’ Omar Infante top the list of available second baseman, but it is highly unlikely either player will be signed without first moving Uggla. Ideally, the Braves would like to get some sort of return for the trade, but simply getting Uggla out of the lineup may be the best they can do – he isn’t likely to have many suitors this offseason based on his rapid offensive deterioration over the past three years.
The best option for the Braves may come from within house. Double-A Mississippi second baseman Tommy LaStella shows all the signs of being ready for a big league call-up. He isn’t a flashy player, he doesn’t have tremendous power or speed, and his glove doesn’t attract baseballs like flies to sugar water as Andrelton Simmons’ does, but LaStella is the sort of rock-solid, contact hitting second baseman the Braves have lacked since acquiring Uggla. He rarely strikes out (a quality the Braves desperately need from someone in their lineup) and hits for a high average (.327 over his minor league career).
Calling up LaStella also has the added advantage of giving he Braves a solid second baseman at minimal cost. He certainly won’t put up the numbers of a Kinsler, Kendrick or Cano, but he will cost next to nothing, freeing up salary for the Braves to pursue a more experienced ace such as Tampa Bay Rays‘ David Price or Detroit Tigers‘ Max Scherzer. It is unlikely the Braves will be able to entice either player to come to Atlanta, and even more unlikely they will be willing to give up enough to land either Price or Scherzer (Detroit would likely be more willing to negotiate than Tampa Bay), but allowing LaStella the opportunity to win the starting job at second base will give Wren the opportunity to make a play for an experienced top of the rotation arm should he choose to do so.
I say give LaStella the chance. He couldn’t possibly be worse than Uggla, and all signs point to his having success at the big league level. Let him play, see where it goes, and make an offseason move for a big arm in the rotation.