How long will Dan Uggla's leash be this year?
Hitting .227 with 55 home runs and 160 RBI in his two years with the Braves, Uggla hasn't exactly lived up to his five-year, $62-million contract.
Which raises the question: How long of a leash does Uggla have this year?
With power throughout the Braves' order, fans aren't going to be patient if Uggla continues to struggle. And, let's face it, can you blame them?
Before you think this is an article intended to bash Uggla, here are some of the good things he's done for the Braves.
In 2012, Uggla batted .262 with runners in scoring position and .308 with runners in scoring position and two outs. So he can hit in the clutch. He brings power to the second base position, which is not seen much in MLB. Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill and Rickie Weeks come to mind. He also started and ended 2012 well, batting .271 in April and .280 in September.
Uggla has it in him to do well, but he seems unable to get things right in his head during the middle parts of the season.
How much longer will Dan Uggla last with the Braves?
Uggla is equally as bad at the plate against righties and lefties, batting .220 against both. In his home park, he batted .187 with seven home runs and 42 RBI.
Then there's the strikeouts.
He ranked fourth in the National League with 168 strikeouts, striking out 96 times with the bases empty.
Simply put, Uggla either just can't get the job done anymore or his brain is getting in the way of him hitting. It's hard to tell which it is.
And the spring hasn't been kind to Uggla, either. He's batting .213 in spring training, recording 10 hits in 47 at-bats.
What to do?
Including this year, Uggla still has three years and $39 million left on his contract. But can the Braves afford another three years of Uggla's subpar performances?
While there is nobody in the farm system that is ready to take over at second should Uggla continue to struggle, there are other possibilities.
Should the opportunity present itself before the trade deadline, guys like Ben Zobrist and Omar Infante could be had for the right price. With both slated to be free agents after this year, the Braves could put a decent package together to get one of the two during the stretch run.
Or the Braves could send Evan Gattis down to the minors to learn how to play second base. While there would be a major adjustment period for Gattis, it could be beneficial for the Braves because he's hitting .438 with two home runs and 10 RBI during spring training.
If Gattis could learn how to play second base, that would solve two problems: It would provide him with the opportunity to be in the lineup and it would solve the Uggla problem all in one.