Good luck trying to find an Atlanta Braves fan who wants to see more of Dan Uggla. Since signing with the Braves before the 2011 season, Uggla has hit only .211, striking out once every 3.18 at-bats. Atlanta fans who have been calling for Uggla’s head over the past few years only need to look at the money to understand why he’s still with the team, and why he will likely stay with the Braves at least through the end of this season.
The Braves signed Uggla away from the Miami Marlins with a five-year, $62 million contract. Atlanta thought they were getting the All-Star caliber second baseman Uggla had been in Miami, where he slashed .263/.349/.488 and averaged 31 homers and 93 RBIs per season. Ironically, the Braves were one of his favorite opponents to face while with the Marlins, hitting .287 against Atlanta and averaging a home run every 15.43 at-bats.
He did have some success in his first year with the Braves. He hit just .178 in his first three months with the team, but then shockingly went on a 33-game hitting streak in July. He hit 15 home runs during the streak and brought his season average up 59 points. It’s been pretty much all downhill since, so much so that if you take out that hitting streak from his career numbers with the Braves, he’d be hitting under .200 during his time in Atlanta.
Defense was never a strong part of Uggla’s game, but it has seemed to get worse over the past few seasons. He’s already made seven errors in just 31 starts in 2014, and has subpar range for a second baseman. Andrelton Simmons starting next to him at shortstop has not helped his cause, with Simmons’ defensive brilliance making Uggla look even worse comparatively.
With Tommy La Stella now called up and Ramiro Pena still available as well, there doesn’t seem to be much of a need for Uggla. If it were just a matter of need, however, Uggla would have been gone before the end of last season. The real issue is that the Braves owe Uggla $26 million through 2015, the final year of his contract.
No MLB team would be willing to take on that contract today, and the Braves don’t appear to be willing to eat that money to cut him. Even though Uggla now sits third on the depth chart, his contract will probably keep him around.
There is the possibility that Uggla could force the issue and make something happen. He was very vocal with his displeasure about being left off the postseason roster last year, and hasn’t taken too kindly to the Braves attempts at trading him in the offseason and benching him this year. It’s hard to envision any scenario where the team could move Uggla other than to simply cut him, but if Uggla becomes a problem in the clubhouse, the team may be forced to do just that.
If La Stella continues to play well, the Braves could feel more confident in letting Uggla go, possibly pursuing a trade where the Braves would pay a majority of Uggla’s remaining money. Teams may be more willing to make a move for the second baseman next year when there is less of a time and financial commitment.
For the rest of this season, however, it looks as if Braves fans will just have to get used to seeing Uggla sit on the bench.