Castrovince: Marlins hope Uggla deal isn't in vain
By Anthony Castrovince
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Trading Dan Uggla was the right move for the Marlins.
Trading him now, in the infancy of the offseason, to a division foe? Well, that's a little more difficult to defend here in the early aftermath of Tuesday's swap with the Braves.
In offering Uggla a reported four-year, $48 million contract, the Marlins made a good faith effort to keep the middle of their order intact. And it was, in my estimation, a reasonable proposal for a soon-to-be 31-year-old second baseman of enormous offensive might, but notable defensive fright.
Uggla, though, wanted more -- another year on that offer and more cash. And hey, he's well within his rights to seek it out. He is, after all, coming off his finest offensive season in a fine career, turning in a slash line of .287/.369/.508 with career highs in homers (33) and RBIs (105), and he'll be eligible for free agency one year from now, unless, of course, the Braves lock him up first.
When the talks with Uggla stalled, the Marlins did what they had to in making him trade bait.
But this bait didn't marinate. Uggla was gone from the Fish in a flash and headed north in the National League East, with Florida reeling in super-utility guy Omar Infante and hard-throwing lefty reliever Mike Dunn from Atlanta.
Was it enough of a haul? Well, time will tell, as it tends to do, but the early reviews are skeptical. Infante is essentially Uggla's opposite -- a singles-hitting slick fielder. His versatility will certainly benefit manager Edwin Rodriguez, but obviously there's no making up for the loss of Uggla's thump. Infante will have to get on base, and Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton will have to knock him in.
In adding Dunn, the Marlins have made yet another move to revamp their relief corps for the long-term. Dustin Richardson, Ryan Webb and Ed Mujica have all come aboard in recent days.
Because Uggla only had one year remaining on his contract, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest had incentive to act quickly.
Still, this felt awfully quick. Braves general manager Frank Wren said some names had been discussed in the last couple weeks, but the deal was finalized out of happenstance on Tuesday.
"We happened to be sitting beside each other," Wren said. "We didn't have assigned seats as we normally do. We started talking and it progressed. By late in the morning, we were exchanging names and were in basic agreement what the deal would be."
Without knowing all the names discussed with Uggla's other reported suitors, who apparently didn't have the benefit of happenstance that Wren did, it's difficult to gauge what kind of market truly existed for the guy. But we do know that the offseason's ebbs and flows have a way of dictating desperation over time. And for all the increased emphasis on defensive metrics in recent years, Uggla's pop from that position has the potential to translate into salivation from clubs looking for more offensive might in an era of declining power numbers. For that reason, a mid-November swap for a utility infielder and a still-developing reliever seemed potentially premature.
dealin' within the division
A look at intradivision trades over the past two years:
Michael Dunn Omar Infante
Enerio Del Rosario
Cliff Lee Mark Lowe
Blake Beavan Matt Lawson Josh Lueke Justin Smoak
Josh Fields Chris Getz
Jose Ascanio Kevin Hart
Tom Gorzelanny John Grabow
The other issue on the table here is one of placement. Intradivision trades involving a player of Uggla's ilk have a bit of a taboo quality to them. The pressure not to get burned is amplified by, well, about 18 -- or the number of times the Marlins will meet the Braves in 2011.
For that very reason, you don't see trades like this all that often, especially when both clubs in question have visions of contention. Sure, the Mariners shipped Cliff Lee to the Rangers last July, but they did so from the bowels of the American League West. Same with the Indians trading Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers in '10 and Carl Pavano to the Twins in '09.
In fact, if you look back over the last five years at intradivision deals, you'll find plenty of swaps akin to Nick Johnson arriving to Florida from Washington in 2009, but you won't find any of the magnitude of this Uggla trade.
The Marlins know Uggla well, and they know that his defensive skills won't get any sharper and his bat could potentially lose some of its potency over the course of a long-term deal. That's why they didn't budge from their final offer.
Now that Uggla is the property of an NL East rival, the Marlins, in addition to hoping the returns are meaningful, have to hope that Uggla doesn't outperform the long-term projection possibilities if he re-ups with the Braves. Because if he does, the right move in theory could take a wrong turn in reality.