Feeling they would be unable to sign second baseman Dan Uggla to a long-term deal, the Florida Marlins traded Uggla to the Atlanta Braves. In return for Uggla, the Marlins received utility man Omar Infante and pitcher Mike Dunn.
The deal, completed on Tuesday, is the first of the Winter Meetings. Uggla made just $7.8 million last season and is arbitration eligible. He is set to be a free agent at the end of the 2011 World Series.
To their credit, the Marlins did offer Uggla a long-term deal. Their initial offer of a three-year, $24 million extension was turned down, and Uggla countered with a five-year, $71 million proposal, according to reports. The Marlins also reportedly upped their offer to $48 million, which was again turned down by Uggla.
Uggla, 30, has 154 career home runs in five seasons with the Florida Marlins. Only Albert Pujols has more home runs from a right-handed batter since 2006 (207).
In dealing Uggla, the Marlins have left a huge void in their lineup. Uggla is a lock for 30 home runs and 90-plus RBI every season, something not so easily replaced. The Marlins have repeatedly shown a lack of interest in putting a quality product on the field, and trading Uggla is just another example.
To be fair, Infante is a solid player. He was a first time All-Star last season, hitting .321 with eight homers and 47 RBI, but he cannot come anywhere near Uggla's production. Dunn pitched only 19 innings last season to the tune of a 1.89 ERA and could provide the Marlins with a solid arm to bolster their weak bullpen.
In order to keep the payroll stable, the Marlins love to trade their best players before their contracts grow too large. They did it with Miguel Cabrera, Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham. The Cabrera deal is probably the worst trade in Marlin's history, as they have since traded away the players they got back from the Detroit Tigers, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, but I digress.
For the Braves, Uggla will provide a big right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup and some flexibility for their roster. Braves general manager Frank Wren says Uggla will play second, which gives them the ability to use Martin Prado at third to give the aging Chipper Jones a rest and also spend some time at first base and in left field.
The Marlins got decent players in return for Uggla, but the it's the Braves who came out on top in this deal. Once again, the Marlins showed their fans that they aren't willing to pay their players. They have been reaping the benefits of Uggla's bat since he entered the league in 2006 as one of the best bargains in baseball.
Now the time comes to sign him to a long-term deal and they send him packing.
Now the Marlins find themselves without a real power threat in their lineup, not to mention no second baseman. Emilio Bonafacio is listed as No.2 on their depth chart, but he's also listed under all three outfield positions and shortstop—he can't be everywhere at once.
The Marlins are just one of those teams, much like the Pittsburg Pirates, who just can't seem to hold onto their best players, preferring instead to wring every dollar they can out of their ballclub.