Second base was a black hole for the Atlanta Braves in 2013.
While I may be a Braves' optimist, even I have to admit that it's time to move on from Dan Uggla. Poor defense and a .213/.323/.404 triple slash line, via Baseball-Reference, over Uggla's career with the Braves simply doesn't cut it.
At this point, if Atlanta can't find a suitor to take at least some of the $26 million due Uggla over the next two years, he might even be released outright to free up a roster spot for a better and cheaper second baseman.
Atlanta has two strong in-house candidates for the second base gig next season with Ramiro Pena and prospect Tommy La Stella. However, there is still a good possibility that Atlanta looks for an outside hire at the position.
David O'Brien, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tweeted that the Braves could be interested in swapping Uggla for Brandon Phillips. While Phillips would be a great fit in Atlanta, the $50 million left on his contract over four years is quite the albatross considering that Phillips could be in the midst of a steep offensive decline.
Phillips is the option gaining the most steam these days, but here are three much cheaper options that Atlanta should pursue instead.
Of all the free agent second basemen, Omar Infante is the option most likely to sign with Atlanta.
Donning a Braves uniform from 2008-10, Infante has familiarity with the team and its ownership, which should make Atlanta the top competitor to Detroit for Infante's rights.
Infante would fit the Braves' needs spectacularly well. Posting a 2013 triple-slash line of .318/.345/.450, he's proven that he can handle big league pitching on an everyday basis. He doesn't walk much, but he also doesn't strike out, making him an instant candidate to hit second in the order due to his above-average speed.
Infante also provides very good defense at second base and is sort of a defensive Swiss army knife. He can play second base, shortstop, third base or the outfield should the Braves need him to shift to compensate for an injury elsewhere.
Kolten Wong is the best offensive option on this list for the Braves. He's only 23 years old, he's big-league ready and he's going to hit.
The problem for St. Louis is that Wong is blocked at second base by Matt Carpenter.
Atlanta would have to give up something of value for Wong—be it a young arm or a young shortstop for St. Louis to develop (i.e. Jose Peraza)—but with Wong's price and potential, the return would most likely be worth it.
In 463 plate appearances at Triple-A Memphis this season, Wong strung together a line of .303/.369/.466 to pair with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He can take a walk, doesn't strike out an awful lot, and with his athleticism and work ethic, he could make himself into a pretty decent defensive second baseman as well.
It's at least worth a call by Braves general manager Frank Wren.
A longtime Oakland A's prospect, Grant Green was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Alberto Callaspo in the middle of this season.
However, if the Angels are unable to unload Howie Kendrick and his remaining two years and $19.55 million, Green, like Kolten Wong, will find himself blocked. After hitting .325/.379/.500 at Triple-A in 2013, Green is ready for a full-time gig at the big league level.
In his Fangraphs prospect profile, Marc Hulet writes that he spoke with a scout who believes that Green's bat compares very well to that of Michael Young. Considering that Young has hit .300 over 1970 major league games, that's a compliment to write home about.
Green is still getting used to second base—he played shortstop and outfield in the Oakland system before settling into second in 2013—but the athleticism is there to polish up his defense.
If Los Angeles has difficulty moving Kendrick, Green could be Atlanta's man at second base.