CHRIS PUMMER: Dan Uggla is a good hitter and a passable second baseman. Even with a glove that’s not going to remind anyone of Roberto Alomar, he’s well worth the 5-year, $62 million contract extension the Braves just gave him.
Guys that can impress more with the leather at second base without hitting a lick are all over the place, while guys like Uggla can maybe only give you the minimum you’d want at the position on defense but belt the ball around like left fielders are pretty rare.
That’s why Uggla just got paid, while the formers are waiting around for a non-roster invitation to spring training.
The downside for the Braves is that Uggla might have to move somewhere else. But consider Uggla’s career OPS of .837, which diminishes the .855 he’s posted the last three years and the .877 he batted last year. That offensive production, unadjusted for context, is better than the .770 left fielders hit last year. Much better than the .742 third basemen MLB-wide hit for last year. It’s even better than what first basemen (.802) and right fielders (.784) did. And these are the big-hitting positions.
The upside is that Uggla keeps hitting better than the average corner outfielder, letting in a few more runs on defense than the average second baseman, while helping his team score a lot more runs over the average second-sacker.
The downside again? Uggla has to move somewhere else on the diamond where he’s an above-average hitter, maybe becoming a little overpaid, but certainly not useless, save for the factors that make any long-term deal a risk for a team.
In total Uggla might not be a tremendous value, but his contract is neither crazy, or even out of line. And most importantly, he’s going to help the Braves win ballgames.
HOWARD MEGDAL: A pair of things would scare me about Dan Uggla’s contract- one relative to position, the other merely a factor of age generally.
In the first case, Uggla will be playing second base, a position that is often unkind to those who age into their thirties. In fact, to maximize the value of his $12 million annual deal, the Braves will be tempted to keep him there for as long as possible. The problem isn’t that his already-terrible defense will get worse. It is that the wear of so many games at second base is likely to cause a dramatic decline in his offense- again, regardless of position.
But leaving that aside, the relatively small advantage Uggla holds over the average production at the non-second base positions Chris cited means that as he declines, even gracefully, he’ll quickly fall to the level of an average bat or worse at any position. Considering how little he brings in terms of defensive value, that will quickly make his annual salary an albatross. Committing to that kind of money in the mere hope that Uggla provides an exception to a rule at his position seems like a poor use of funds.