Dan Uggla gets $62 million over five years, and I say, ‘Ugh’

This is not Dan Uggla -- it's Brooks Conrad -- but it could be. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

All I'm saying: Remember Game 3. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Were Dan Uggla about to turn 29, as opposed to 31, this might be a good deal. Were the Braves based in the American League, as opposed to the ol’ Senior Circuit, this might be a good deal. But he isn’t and they aren’t.

The Braves have agreed to re-up Uggla, who hasn’t yet played a game for them, for $62 million over five years. That’s not nearly Jayson-Werth-to-Washington money, but it’s a huge outlay by Braves standards. It’s also the biggest contract afforded any second baseman in baseball, and Uggla is a second baseman in name only.

Uggla’s real position is batter, and he’s really good there. And yes, the Braves needed a hitting upgrade, right-handed hitting especially. So that part makes sense. What makes less is this: To accommodate Uggla, the Braves are willing to weaken an already-crummy defense by moving Martin Prado, who’s better at second base than Uggla, to left field.

Defense in baseball is a funny thing: Almost nobody notices it until they see it’s not there. Then the wailing begins. The Braves just lost a playoff series because they couldn’t play D, but much of that was a function of circumstance: Chipper Jones and then Prado had gotten hurt and poor Brooks Conrad had to play someplace. If the Braves are still lousy defensively in 2011 and beyond, it won’t be an accident: It will be because they’ve made the considered decision to acquire and then extend Uggla.

I know what you’re saying: “What’s the big deal? If he drives in two runs a game he’ll make up giving one back.” But that’s not quite true. Bad D has an erosive effect on a team’s psyche. Let’s recall that the first moves made by John Schuerholz when he arrived from Kansas City were to sign Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream and Rafael Belliard — not so much for their hitting (although the Braves reaped the bonus of having Pendleton lead the league in batting average) but for their defense. Schuerholz knew the heart of his inherited team had to be its young pitching, and he wanted above all to give his young pitchers a chance.

Even with Uggla, the Braves going forward figure to be better at pitching than hitting. The presence of Uggla at second base (and, by extension, Prado in left) could undermine that pitching. We just saw the Giants win a World Series without hitting much — the Braves outhit outscored San Francisco over 162 games, FYI — because of an ability to pitch, yes, but also because of the capacity to catch.

I understand why the Braves wanted Uggla. They’ll need a batting-order anchor in case the post-surgical Chipper doesn’t return to his 2008 form, and they’re tired of one year rentals. (See Teixeira, Mark. Also Drew, J.D.) That said, signing a player of Uggla’s age to such a contract knowing he really doesn’t have a position is a real reach.

Pitching and defense are supposed to go hand in glove. Uggla’s glove is for ornamental purposes only. There are better ways to spend $62 million.

By Mark Bradley

344 comments Add your comment

Newbomb Turk

January 5th, 2011
9:06 am

Newbomb Turk

January 5th, 2011
9:08 am

Wow…that is my first “first” in a long time…thought that I was losing my touch. MB, what would you have suggested that the Braves do? Let him walk at the end of the year?? Under the circumstances, the contract is not that bad for a 30 hr per year player.

Pierson Brave

January 5th, 2011
9:10 am

Where did Utley come into this?

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:11 am

Mark- Change the Utley’s to Uggla. The Braves would be happy with Utley as well but he’s not coming.

So tired

January 5th, 2011
9:12 am

Richard Dawson

January 5th, 2011
9:12 am

“…American League, as opposed to the old Junior Circuit…” Huh?

norcross jacket

January 5th, 2011
9:13 am

-26 UZR and -10.4 UZR/150 in Florida
3.4 UZR and a 1.4 UZR/150 everywhere else.

So outside of the Marlins terrible stadium, he is actually a career + defender

Richard Dawson

January 5th, 2011
9:14 am

Boy are all of DOB’s fanboys and perpetually optimistic Braves fans going to be upset with this article.

FIRE CHIPPER JONES.

Frank

January 5th, 2011
9:15 am

I guess he’s still waking up from his hibernation. Uggla Utley. They’re all the same. LOL

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:15 am

Good column though, signing this guy 5 yr/62 million is definately a risk long term. But, no more than the big money they are paying Chipper. Cross your fingers he can give us at least a little semblance of what he used to be.

DeepDiver

January 5th, 2011
9:15 am

‘There are better ways to spend $62 million.’ Exactly — extend KK! Uggla can’t be worse than Brooksy.

Sonny Clusters

January 5th, 2011
9:15 am

We think Glenn Hubbard can work with him and turn him into a pretty good second baseman. Wait! Hubbard is gone! Maybe TP can work with him and turn him into a third baseman. Oh, well, they’d be better off with a Clusters but the phone hasn’t rung around here yet.

Richard Dawson

January 5th, 2011
9:16 am

The Utley/Uggla transposition in your article (twice) raises an interesting question. At what other time in history were there two 2B whose last name started with U…and contained five letters?

Biggdawg33

January 5th, 2011
9:17 am

Mark, should we look to find someone else at the AJC when a top-notch writer makes a bunch of bloopers in their article? Utley???

Gary

January 5th, 2011
9:19 am

Seems the copy editor didn’t do his or her job this morning. Utley? Old Junior Circuit?

Herschel Talker

January 5th, 2011
9:21 am

MB:

I vehemently disagree. This dude’s bat more than makes up for his defensive problems. Comparing him to Brooks Conrad is a joke, as Brooks didn’t have anywhere near Uggla’s numbers at the plate. If you want to get angry at contracts, then please write a column on the albatross that is Chipper Jones’ contract. This contract is much better than Chipper’s.

HT

Mark Bradley

January 5th, 2011
9:27 am

Kudos, Newbomb Turk.

TommyJack

January 5th, 2011
9:27 am

Agree with H. Talker.

rtr

January 5th, 2011
9:27 am

One other error – the National League is the “Senior Circuit.” The American League (the one with DHs, which is the point I think you’re making) is the “Junior Circuit.”

JDawg

January 5th, 2011
9:28 am

He is 6 months younger and has better numbers than Wirth, who cost a lot more.

Why compare his contract with other second basemen? Compare it with other hitters . . .

Mark Bradley

January 5th, 2011
9:29 am

Utley was on my mind because Uggla now makes more than Utley.

Got that? I obviously didn’t. Sorry to be so stupid. I’d give myself a U for unsatisfactory on that graph. But thanks for noticing.

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:30 am

Guys lighten up on Ol’ Mark Bradley. We all knew what he was saying and got it. It’s fixed folks dont’ get pissy about it.

Caseyatthebat

January 5th, 2011
9:30 am

Well, Mark, perhaps you’d like to enlighten us as to how 62 million would be better spent by the Braves

Mark Bradley

January 5th, 2011
9:31 am

And before anyone says anything: If Uggla drives in two runs a game, he’ll finish with 324 RBIs, which would be a record by some distance. That part was an intentional exaggeration.

Caseyatthebat

January 5th, 2011
9:31 am

Enter your comments here

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:33 am

What your’e really gonna get po’d about will come later when he tells us how the Falcons could lose. I hope Peter King and Mark dont’ jinx the Birds

PMC

January 5th, 2011
9:34 am

He won’t be as bad defensively as rumored. He certainly won’t be any worse than Kelly Johnson.

12.4 million is respectable money for a middle of the lineup hitter, and this deal only pays him through his 35th year.

Chipper is what 37 or 38 and he’s making over 13 million.

He would be crazy to take less than that money given what other guys just got paid.

It’s a fair deal for the player he is.

Sonny Clusters

January 5th, 2011
9:37 am

Lighten up on ol’ Mark, everybody. Our grandmother got like that and was calling all of us by the wrong names and getting confused like that and she used to be a big time newspaper writer, too. Her career ended when she got a little confused and quoted a White Horse souce. Clusters can get confused, too.

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:38 am

I believe when Uggla gets into that 4th or 5th year is when you get into that Derek Lowe/KK area where a player’s value isn’t worth what they’re contract dictates. Bat that’s a few years down the road and right now no one cares except for what Uggla does next year.

PMC

January 5th, 2011
9:38 am

This team has needed a slugger in the middle of the lineup for a decade now and people are crying about the Braves spending money???

Seriously????

You can’t win. They have focused on pitching for the last 2 years. They FINALLY get a slugger and oh…his defense isn’t good enough???

Seriously??? Ridiculous. Baseball has no salary cap, this money doesn’t preclude them from signing ANYONE else.

If they do have budget constraints… a lot of big ticket items are off the roster at the end of this year. They dumped KK and his ridiculous money. They will soon be rid of McClouth.

Wow, cry when they spend, cry when they don’t.

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

January 5th, 2011
9:38 am

Mark, gotta somewhat disagree here. The trade for Uggla would never have made sense if the Braves weren’t planning on locking him up with an extension. You can knock the trade, but the contract makes sense and the money is reasonable. Yep, Uggla has hands of stone, but it’s not just his bat the Braves are getting. By all accounts, he is a real leader and a great clubhouse presence. Besides, Prado will provide great defense at third as I predict Chipper will only play about 60 games.

ChopSkip&aJump

January 5th, 2011
9:40 am

I wish the AJC would spend $62M getting some writers that actually like local teams.

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

January 5th, 2011
9:41 am

And, yes, I gave a backhanded compliment to Frank Wren. I must not be feeling well…

Dan

January 5th, 2011
9:42 am

Not so sure Prado will be sticking around unless he proves he is a serviceable outfielder? Plenty of young outfielders that he could be part of a trade for? Waiting for Chipper to retire or hoping he cant come back for Prado is not the answer.

Uttla

January 5th, 2011
9:43 am

Have to agree that Uggla will not have the range of Prado or Infante. But, he’s better than Brooks. Offensively, he’s a huge upgrade with respect to power. Prado in left will be fine. Only problem there will be if he can stay there. I have a feeling he will be playing alot of 3rd, as our hall of famer 3rd baseman will surely be sidelined with a toe, knee, ankle, shoulder, etc injury. That, and the success of our centerfielder, will be key. Shame someone can’t teach McClouth how to swing level, for more base hits, instead of the uppercut swing for the homerun. He has enough speed to be a decent lead-off if he could just get on base more.

Caseyatthebat

January 5th, 2011
9:43 am

Maybe Mark’s time would be better spent returning to picking on Mark Richt!

Rich T

January 5th, 2011
9:44 am

I agree on Uggla.

As for Prado in LF: that’ll only be until Chipper goes down in late April.

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:44 am

PMC, all fair points but Dan Uggla at 35 is not going to be Chipper Jones at 35. Chipper is a sure fire HOF and Uggla is a solid everday player with power type second baseman. It’s a gamble for sure. If we didnt’ pay Uggla someone else would have.

Mark Bradley

January 5th, 2011
9:44 am

If I pick the local team to win, I’m a jinx. If I don’t, I’m a hater. I get it.

Sonny Clusters

January 5th, 2011
9:45 am

We was noticing that Prado is giving back to the community (Prado on Roswell Road) and looks like a pretty good guy to keep over the long term. Some of the players are real selfish and all they want is a Dairy Queen of their own.

Long in Da Toof

January 5th, 2011
9:46 am

Just to clarify from your post, do you hate the Braves giving Dan Uggla so many million$ due to Age Discrimination, Mark?

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:47 am

Your’e right Mark I guess so. You have to choose a side though right? Maybe you will be pleasantly wrong and the Falcons win on the 15th

Hankie Aron

January 5th, 2011
9:49 am

Clusters you are always entertaining. I like reading your posts about as much as any writer for the AJC

JDawg

January 5th, 2011
9:52 am

“. . .but Dan Uggla at 35 is not going to be Chipper Jones at 35.”
**********************************
I hope not, Hankie. I would prefer that Uggla play with an ingrown toenail or a tight hammy, instead of sitting for a week . . .

dap01

January 5th, 2011
9:52 am

He fills the biggest need the Braves have had for many years. I say great deal.

Joel

January 5th, 2011
9:52 am

What do you suggest Mark? The Braves need a power hitter after this season too and the rentals were tiring fans and the team. There was no one else the Braves could get or afford. Uggla was a great trade and if he delivers, he’ll be worth the money. His defense is a vast improvement over Brooks Conrad. Have Uggla on last year’s team and we beat the Giants.

fla dawg

January 5th, 2011
9:53 am

agree with some you say and disagree with some but what does.., “who hasn’t yet played a game for them” have to do with anything? do teams not sign players all the time who have not played a game for them?

KimZ'spackage

January 5th, 2011
9:53 am

In this economy this is crazy. People don’t have money for their house payments and the food , apower bills. Do you really think that many people will be going to baseball games enough to afford to pay a guy more than $12/yr? I am sorry nobody is worth that kind of money for any job in entainment.

Athens Mike

January 5th, 2011
9:53 am

I’m with you Mark. You are paid to prognosticate and prognosticate you did. It is a real concern. Our defense was crap last year, and Prado, the best player we have right now, will have to take on a new position. It is a risky move.

Adairsville Dawg

January 5th, 2011
9:57 am

I for one am tired of watching 1-0 2-1 games, so if he can knock in a couple of runs every other night or so, and help the others get hits and knock in runs just by being in the line up and protecting them then so him the money!!!Maybe if Liberty keeps spending a little more money then more people would come out to watch the Braves instead of them having to play in a half empty stadium all week long and only big crowds on the weekends.