Why The Blue Jays Should Pass On Dan Uggla
It will be almost impossible as the off season wears on to go into all that much detail about every rumored player the Blue Jays will have interest in acquiring. The what ifs almost always turn out to be nothing more than that and just about anything passes for news during baseball's off season. But as of now there isn't all that much going on with the Jays, leaving the opportunity to explore the one big rumor sitting out there in some detail.
That rumor is that the Florida Marlins are looking to deal Dan Uggla and, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Blue Jays are the front runners to acquire the power hitting second baseman. Uggla has established himself as one of the top hitting second baseman in the game over the last five seasons. He's gone deep over thirty times in each of the past four seasons while also collecting his fare share of doubles and walks.
Last season he hit 33 homers, collected 31 doubles, walked in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances and had a career high .381 wOBA. He also had career highs in batting average(.287), BABIP(.330) and on-base percentage(.369). His walk rate was actually the lowest it's been since 2007 but still well above average, same for his .221 isolated power, an excellent showing but also a mark he's bested in two of his three previous campaigns.
Uggla has been a very healthy player in his career playing in at least 146 games in each of his five seasons, and missing just seven games in the last two seasons combined. The only downside to Uggla's game has been his less than impressive defense at a position of relative defensive importance. Uggla will also be 31 next season leaving no reason to think his defense will improve, but his offense should remain strong for several more seasons.
The first issue with acquiring Uggla is his contract expectations. It's been reported today that he turned down a four-year, forty-eight million dollar offer to stay with the Marlins. The Jays wouldn't be wise to go much beyond that type of offer in either money or years and essentially pay for his prime years of production in Florida while playing out his decline stage in Toronto. There's also no guarantee that Uggla would sign with Toronto in the first place if they did land him, he could simply play out his last arbitration season(for which he'll be payed well) and go into the open market in 2011.
In that scenario the Jays would be giving up some prospects(determining whom exactly that would be is almost a pointless excercise) for one year of Uggla and a couple of 2012 draft picks. If the Jays are looking at 2011 as a win now season then maybe it's the right approach. But if they're not, keeping the prospects they already have would be the better route if the plan is to compete in 2012 and beyond.
If Uggla was just going to cost an expendable amount of money(i.e. cheap) in return for draft picks that'd be one thing. But eight or nine million dollars, plus two-three prospects for two draft picks in 2012 hardly seems practical. The Blue Jays do have two organizational positions of strength to deal from with their plethora of catching and starting pitching prospects. The problem with that is that if you could choose two positions to be deep in it would be catching and starting pitching.
If the Jays did get him and sign him, the issue with Uggla would move to where he plays on the field. Obviously, this would also be the issue if he was only going to be around for 2011 as well. Olney's report cited one scout who thinks most of Uggla's fielding issues involve throwing issues. The scout when on to say he might fare better at third because the ball arrives quicker, therefore leaving more time for Uggla to make solid throws. Uggla could also play first and naturally make even less throws but finding someone who can field first base isn't exactly hard or a major concern.
Uggla's bat would still be above average at third and maybe his defense would creep closer to average. That's great in of itself but if the Jays want a power hitting third baseman who walks a lot and may struggle defensively...they already have one. Jose Bautista would fill that role quite well and the Jays have already gone through the trouble of acquiring him. Playing Bautista at third also opens up playing time in the outfield.
Keeping Uggla at second is another, poorer, option that would require moving Aaron Hill to third or trading him. The latter is a horrible idea, selling low on a twenty-eight year old, cost controlled player coming off the worst year in his career to bring in a thirty-one year old, coming off a career year for more money is not the ideal way to go about one's business. Neither is moving the defensively superb Hill off his position to make room for an inferior fielder at an up the middle position.
It's early in the off-season and there figures to be loads more options to come about for the Blue Jays. They won't all be discussed in such length as this one, but that doesn't mean they won't be better.
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