ORLANDO – Dan Uggla’s father in central Tennessee went looking for a foam tomahawk Tuesday, after Dan called to say he was traded from the Marlins to the Braves.
For the Ugglas, this development was far from ugly.
“Really, extremely happy that I was traded over to an organization like the Braves,” said the slugging second baseman, dealt to the Braves in a trade that sent All-Star utility infielder Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn to the Marlins.
Uggla is a two-time All-Star whose 154 home runs are the most ever for a middle infielder in his first five seasons. He hit .287 with 33 homers and 105 RBIs in 2010, and won the Silver Slugger award as the National League’s best-hitting second baseman.
During a speakerphone interview Wednesday with a few reporters covering the general managers meetings, Uggla was asked where he would’ve put Atlanta on a list of preferable places to be traded to.
“They’re as at-the-top as you can get,” Uggla said. “They’re the closest team to my home in Nashville. My family can come down anytime they want. It’s a best-case scenario for me. I’ve heard but how first-class this organization is. Brian McCann is my favorite guy in baseball.”
McCann, the Braves’ All-Star catcher, was thrilled by the trade.
“Oh, man,” he said. “What a big pickup that was for our team. Uggla’s everything we’ve been looking for. He plays hard every single day and he’s going to fit in nice. When you play against him, you see what kind of player he is. He brings it to the field every day. When you add a player like that to a ballclub, you automatically get a lot better.”
Uggla has averaged nearly 31 home runs and 93 RBIs in five seasons, and never totaled fewer than 27 homers or 88 RBIs. He has a .263 career batting average and .349 on-base percentage, and more homers in the past five seasons than any NL right-handed hitter except Albert Pujols.
The Marlins traded him only days after he turned down their four-year, $48 million contract offer. He asked for five years and a reported $71 million.
“If somebody wants to give him five years, good luck to them,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said Wednesday during a break in the GM meetings. “He’s 31 years old.”
Uggla, who’ll be 31 in March, could command up to $11 million in his final year of arbitration, and become a free agent after the 2011 season. Braves general manager Frank Wren said he’ll try to sign Uggla to an extension, but hasn’t put a timetable on the negotiations.
Loria sounded bitter over how things went down. Uggla and the Braves sounded anything but upset.
“We’ve been looking for a couple of years for a guy that can hit 30 homers,” McCann said. “For Dan to be available, to be able to throw him in the four or five hole, it’s going to be big for our team.
“Everybody’s real happy. We’re all excited about getting started.”
During an XM/Sirius radio interview Wednesday, Uggla was asked about the possibility of staying with the Braves beyond 2011.
“It’s definitely a spot where I could see myself playing out the rest of my career,” he said. “It’s the closest place to my family. I grew up watching the Braves.”
One thing is certain: Uggla fully understands that he won’t be wearing No. 6 for Atlanta, his number with the Marlins. No. 6 belonged to just-retired Braves manager Bobby Cox.
“The number 6 is very prestigious in the Atlanta Braves organization,” Uggla said. “I am honored to not wear that number.”