When the Braves signed Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62 million extension in January, I didn’t have a big problem with it. True, it was a significant commitment from a team that has been struggling to create some payroll flexibility in recent years. But if Uggla’s next five seasons were similar to his previous five, the investment was worthy.
The problem: Uggla has face-planted. If he doesn’t turn it around, this contract will turn into one of the worst albatrosses in pro sports.
He is hitting .172 through 60 games. Perspective: He would have to add 66 points to his average just to be as good as Nate McLouth (.238). It’s even worse over the last 16 games: Uggla is 5-for-60 (.083) with an on-base percentage of .152.
But the Braves have no options here. The contract extension means Uggla can’t really be benched for an extended period, and he certainly can’t be traded. Sending him to Triple-A Gwinnett, which he likely would have to sign off on, also seems implausible, although the Braves have done it with other high-priced fizzles.
In short, they have no choice but to wait and hope that Uggla turns it around.
This is a bad position for a general manager to be in, because no matter what Frank Wren eventually decides to do with the roster, he’s going to have to work around the annual salaries that the team has committed to Uggla though 2015: $10 million (including a $1 million signing bonus) this season, $13 million in each of the four that follow.
Of all that has gone wrong so far this season, the lack of production from Uggla and Jason Heyward stands out. The Braves are sunk unless that changes. Manager Fredi Gonzalez continues to hope that the numbers eventually reflect the back of the players’ bubble gum cards.
So, how confident are you? Is this an aberration for Uggla or do you expect him to struggle all season? Also, what were your thoughts on the $62 million contract back in January (be honest)?
By Jeff Schultz