Dan Uggla was reportedly traded to the Atlanta Braves this afternoon for infielder Omar Infante and pitcher Mike Dunn.
It's the third major trade in just a matter of days for the Florida Marlins, who also parted ways with pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin earlier this week.
Uggla had no interest staying in a Marlins uniform after rejecting a four-year, $48 million contract extension last week, so it's hard to fault Florida for trading their power-hitting second basemen. But is a career utility man and a rookie relief pitcher really fair value for one of the most productive offensive players in baseball?
Uggla, who can also play third and the outfield, has four consecutive seasons of at least 31 home runs. He's a two-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger award winner in 2010. His career OPS is a pleasant .837 and he's still only 30 years old. Those kinds of players don't exactly grow on trees.
But players like Infante and Dunn do.
Infante has never played in more than 142 games in his career and is typically used as a backup infielder all over the diamond. This past season with the Braves he finally got the chance to play on a near full-time basis and had an excellent year. He led the league in hitting for a time and finished with a .321 batting average. He also contributed a handful of doubles (15), home runs (8), and stolen bases (7).
But just because the 28-year-old made his first All-Star team, doesn't mean that he's good enough to be an everyday second basemen (and certainly not one of Uggla's caliber).
Dunn, meanwhile, came over to the Braves as part of the Javier Vazquez-Melky Cabrera deal and had a nice rookie season for Atlanta. In 25 games he had a 1.89 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 19 innings. Dunn looks like he could be a power lefty out of the bullpen for years to come. But 19 innings is hardly a sufficient sample size over which to trade one of your franchise players.
So why did the Marlins do it?
Well they had to trade Uggla for one. No sense in paying upwards of $10 million for a player who is guaranteed to sign elsewhere at the end of the season. But why sell so low?
The Marlins were desperate for relief help at the trade deadline and they're still desperate for it now. Aside from closer Leo Nunez and set-up man Burke Badenhop, the Marlins relief corps had a difficult time finishing games last season. Out of 64 save opportunities, the Marlins only converted 39 of them for a 61 save percentage.
That's horrifyingly bad. The Marlins finished with a 80-82 record, and 40 of those losses belonged to relievers. That's the difference between a third place finish and a playoff berth. With Dunn aboard along with former Boston lefty Dustin Richardson and San Diego relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica, the Marlins now have a solid staff to back up a promising rotation.
But how do they replace Uggla's bat?
Nobody in that lineup, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton included, has the pop to equal Uggla's production. Infante is a nice player but he's a far cry from an intimidating hitter (45 career home runs in nine seasons).
It's reasonable to assume that the always cost-conscious Marlins were looking to shed payroll so that they could afford to pay arbitration to some of their rising stars, like Nunez and Gaby Sanchez. But those players won't be making big dollars for a few more years.
The more likely explanation is that the Marlins grew tired of waiting for Miller (25) and Maybin (23) to emerge as superstars and cut their losses to allow other players from their bursting minor league system to come up.
This is a perfectly reasonable course of action for a team in the midst of a long-term rebuilding project. But small market teams like the Marlins can't afford to sell off potential All-Star talents for below market value.
Had they held on to Miller, Maybin, and Uggla till after the winter meetings, they would have been almost guaranteed to get better offers for each of their players. Decisive action is not always the correct action.
Marlins fans can only hope that they won't be trying to figure out ways to beat their three former players as they rise to stardom in new cities.
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