Dan Uggla Rumors

Quick Hits: Nationals, Axford, Badenhop

Here’s the latest from around the league as the evening winds down.

  • With Ben Zobrist headed west to the Athletics, the Nationals are still trying to solve second base, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Currently, there are five internal options. The most obvious are Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon. Espinosa has disappointed over the last two seasons while Rendon is expected to start at third base. Prospect Wilmer Difo has yet to play above A-ball, but he’s on the 40-man roster and possesses exciting tools. Other options include veterans Kevin Frandsen and Dan Uggla.
  • Free agent John Axford would like to compete for a closer gig, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. As it happens, the Blue Jays have yet to acquire a closer. Left-hander Brett Cecil is penciled into the role. At this point, no offers have been made to Axford, but several teams have shown interest including the Jays. After three consecutive rough seasons, Axford would likely have to earn any high leverage role.
  • The market for mid-tier, high leverage relievers has been slow to materialize, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford interviews righty reliever Burke Badenhop who is coming off a career season with a 2.29 ERA in over 70 innings. As Badenhop points out, teams don’t feel any pressure to make the first offer to free agents of his caliber. While five teams may be showing interest, they each know that any firm offer will get passed around to the others for bidding. Relievers like Badenhop, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano have to exercise patience as prospective buyers first gauge the trade market.

Cafardo On Shields, Zobrist, Uggla, Papelbon, Aoki

The return of Alex Rodriguez headlines the top ten baseball storylines in 2015, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. With the 39-year-old Rodriguez and his two degenerating hips returning after serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Cafardo posits the best-case scenario for the Yankees would be if A-Rod cannot hold up physically or the team and/or MLB come up with more damaging material to keep him out of baseball for good. Also making Cafardo’s list, the start of Rob Manfred’s tenure as Commissioner and Pete Rose testing the waters of reinstatement in the wake of the retirement of Bud Selig, a staunch opponent of allowing the all-time hits leader back into the game.

In other tidbits from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • It has been hard to gauge the market for James Shields because his negotiations have been private. However, a MLB source tells Cafardo the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Giants have had discussions or shown interest in the right-hander. Cafardo adds the Giants have cooled on Shields after re-signing Jake Peavy, but remain open-minded.
  • The Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs are seriously pursuing Ben Zobrist with the Rays‘ asking price being at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.
  • Dan Uggla is confident in returning to his former self after being diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor motion vision when moving the head or body), which was caused by being hit in the head by a pitch on two separate occasions. After a two-week exercise regimen, doctors have declared the second baseman’s motion vision normal. The Nationals, who signed Uggla to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite the day after Christmas, have prior experience in dealing with oculomotor dysfunction, as Denard Span suffered through it in 2013. The Orioles and Rangers also expressed interest in Uggla.
  • Despite his less-than-stellar reputation, Cafardo finds it hard to fathom a team would not trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Cafardo notes Papelbon has found a way to keep getting batters out with diminished velocity as evident by his 106 saves over the past three seasons, including 39 (with just four blown saves) for a bad Phillies team last year.
  • Clubs are only offering outfielder Nori Aoki two-year deals. The Orioles have definite interest in Aoki, who also has some appeal to the Giants.

 


Nationals Sign Dan Uggla To Minor League Deal

The Nationals have signed Dan Uggla to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, the team announced (on Twitter). Uggla is a client of Turn 2 Sports Management.

The Nationals are plenty familiar with Uggla, who turns 35 in March, for a couple of reasons. He’s spent the bulk of his big league career in their division as a member of the Marlins and Braves, and additionally, GM Mike Rizzo drafted Uggla when he was the Diamondbacks’ scouting director back in 2001.

Clearly, Uggla’s five-year, $62MM contract extension with Atlanta didn’t pan out as the Braves had hoped. In fact, they’ll pay him $13MM this coming season after releasing him in the fourth year of his contract. Uggla’s bat significantly declined in 2013 and fell off even further in 2014. In total, he batted a mere .171/.291/.326 in 694 plate appearances over the life of those two seasons. While strikeouts have always been a problem for Uggla, his K-rate jumped to 31 percent in 2013-14, and his power vanished entirely in 2014 (two homers in 157 PA, .064 ISO).

The Nationals have some uncertainty at second base, as they’ll shift Anthony Rendon to third base full-time in 2015, with Ryan Zimmerman jumping to first base. That leaves Danny Espinosa, who has had offensive struggles of his own, and utility infielder Kevin Frandsen as the primary internal options at the keystone. And while Uggla’s name often invokes cynicism from fans, it’s tough to fault the Nats for taking a low-risk flier on a player that hit 30 or more homers each year from 2007-11 and has been roughly a league-average bat as recently as 2012.



Cafardo On Hamels, Astros, Howard, Craig

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that teams second guessing themselves is just a regular part of the offseason.  A lot of folks are second guessing the A’s, but manager Bob Melvin has confidence in GM Billy Beane.

We’re looking to get a little bit younger, yet if you want to look back to the end of 2011 and leading into 2012, we traded our last three All-Stars in [Trevor] Cahill[Andrew] Bailey, and [Gio] Gonzalez and we ended up winning the division,” said Melvin. “We’re looking to compete again. This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players that we’re getting back we like. There’s always a balance here for us in that we have to look down the road. We lost quite a bit of talent the last couple of years, making some trades. Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance and keep us competitive currently, yet also having to look down the road for the future.”

More from today’s column..

  • The Astros are a sleeper team in the Cole Hamels chase, Cafardo writes.  The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are also interested in the Phillies left-hander, but Houston could join the bunch and the Giants may also be in if they can’t land James Shields.
  • The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Ryan Howard, and a team source indicated to Cafardo that they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him.  Howard is owed $60MM between 2015 and 2017, including a buyout.  The Rays and Orioles have DH needs and he could theoretically fit the bill.
  • Both the Marlins and the Brewers have active interest in Red Sox first baseman Allen Craig.  Craig, 30, had some strong years with the Cardinals before joining the Red Sox at last year’s deadline.
  • Agent John Boggs says that he’s having “discussions with several cubs” about client Ichiro Suzuki, though no deal is imminent at this time.
  • Dan Uggla’s agent, Terry Bross, was trying to market his client for a comeback at the Winter Meetings.  Cafardo hears that a lot of the 34-year-old’s decline may have had to do with an undetected concussion.

Quick Hits: Red Sox, Mariners, Uggla, Padres, Mets

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington indicates he wouldn’t hesitate to deal for a starter who is under contract for just one more year, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com.  “I think there’s actual some real value in a guy who’s not signed long-term, if they fit in the rotation, because it gives you a chance to get to know him and see if it could be a fit…I don’t think we’d necessarily need a negotiation wind-down to consider (a deal for one).” Here’s more from around the Majors.

  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said he has received calls on every one of the M’s young relievers as well as shortstops Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, according to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times (on Twitter).
  • Dan Uggla intends to make a comeback and five teams are interested, agent Terry Bross tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
  • Padres GM A.J. Preller is hard at work at the Winter Meetings, but he’s also taking the long view of the winter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com.  “The offseason is a long offseason, and it doesn’t end with the Winter Meetings,” Preller cautioned. “In an ideal world, we get something done this week that improves the team. But, ultimately, it may not be this week or this month.
  • When asked if he’s talking trade with the Rangers, Padres GM A.J. Preller said “Honestly, we haven’t talked players yet today,” according to Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego (via Twitter).
  • The Pirates are working multiple angles, as Tom Singer of MLB.com writes.  “And it’s not just the top-tier free agents,” GM Neal Huntington said. “It’s also the guys who could be traded; a lot of pitchers are in their free-agent walk years, and there are various ongoing conversations in the industry. We’re engaged on a bunch of different fronts.”
  • Trading Dillon Gee would give the Mets flexibility this offseason, opines Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.  The Mets could still shop Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon, but GM Sandy Alderson says that he likes Niese’s left arm and team-friendly contract, and that he isn’t trying to trade Colon.
  • The Marlins are trying to fill one void without creating another, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

Giants Release Dan Uggla, Outright Tyler Colvin

AUG. 8: The Giants have released Uggla and outrighted Colvin to Triple-A Fresno, according to the team’s transactions page.

AUG. 4: Uggla has declined to go to Triple-A, Pavlovic tweets, and it is “hard to see him back with [the] Giants at any point.”  As for Colvin, Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that the outfielder has been informed that the Giants would like to keep him at Triple-A if he clears waivers.  Colvin has the option of becoming a free agent.

AUG. 1: The Giants have designated Uggla and Colvin for assignment, tweets Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News.

JULY 30, 9:21pm: The Giants have actually optioned Colvin to Triple-A, and have yet to formally make a move regarding Uggla, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club has not confirmed that Uggla has or will be released, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.

8:46pm: The Giants have released second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Tyler Colvin, reports MLB.com’s Chris Haft. San Francisco is expected to undertake several roster moves, possibly including new additions as well as the activation of several regulars from the DL.

While the club has been rumored to be pursuing several possible options at second base, nothing has reportedly come to fruition at this point. The Giants need roster space regardless, as Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, and Hector Sanchez are all expected to be activated in relatively short order.

Uggla struggled mightily in his short time in San Francisco, failing to register a hit in 12 plate appearances while striking out six times (to go with three errors in the field). Of course, that is a continuation of his difficult time this year and last in Atlanta. Since the start of 2013, the 34-year-old has slashed .171/.291/.326 over 694 plate appearances, racking up 217 strikeouts along the way.

Colvin, meanwhile, owns a meager .225/.270/.384 line in 148 plate appearances on the season. He joined the Giants on a minor league deal after spending the prior two seasons with the Rockies. Once a well-regarded prospect, the 28-year-old had a strong 2012 campaign but has not produced at the MLB level since.


Giants Sign Dan Uggla

The Giants have signed second baseman Dan Uggla, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).  It’s a minor league contract that will see Uggla report to Triple-A Fresno, and the deal contains an out clause for August 1st, according to Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter).  Uggla is represented by Turn 2 Sports Management.

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Giants second basemen have combined for only 0.3 fWAR this season, and with Marco Scutaro back from the disabled list but not close to 100 percent, adding Uggla seems like a no-lose risk.  San Francisco’s interest in the veteran slugger was reported by CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly on Friday.  Uggla seems badly in need of a change of scenery to revive his career, as the 34-year-old has seen his numbers steadily decline over the last four seasons, bottoming out with just a .472 OPS in 145 PA this year.

Uggla lost his starting job in Atlanta to rookie Tommy La Stella, and things quickly soured from there. Uggla received very little playing time over his final two months in Atlanta, and he was issued a one-game suspension for showing up only an hour before a game.  The Braves are still on the hook for the approximately $18.2MM remaining on Uggla’s contract through the end of the 2015 season, as the Giants only owe him a prorated league minimum salary for the remainder of 2014.

It seems unlikely that the Giants will cease looking for additional help at the keystone, but Uggla serves as a reasonable enough buy-low option for GM Brian Sabean.  Should he produce for San Francisco, it wouldn’t be the first time that Sabean caught lightning in a bottle on a struggling veteran. In 2010, the Giants’ additions of Pat Burrell and Cody Ross helped fuel their charge to the World Series, in which they defeated the Rangers four games to one.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Central Notes: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates

The National League Central saw a change atop its leaderboard as the Brewers fell out of first place for the first time since April 5 after a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Nationals. It could be temporary pending the outcome of the Cardinals’ game with the Dodgers tonight. Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty has several of his inner-circle baseball operations people on the road with him and is eyeing some additions, but that doesn’t mean anything will happen this month. “I’d like to add a bat,” Jocketty said, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. “We just haven’t found anything that attracts us yet. It may not happen before the 31st.”  Jocketty went on to say if the Reds acquire a bat, the preference would be for the player to play multiple positions.
  • With Brandon Phillips on the disabled list, the Reds GM was asked about pursuing the recently released Dan Uggla. “We haven’t discussed that yet,” Jocketty said (as quoted by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer). “I haven’t talked to our scouts that saw him. I don’t know. We’re going to meet tomorrow and go over some stuff.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter), Jocketty made it clear he’d like to acquire a middle of the order bat he could put into the Reds‘ lineup right away, not an injury risk type player.  When asked about Rays‘ second baseman Ben Zobrist (link), Jocketty said, “That’s a good name. That’s all I’ll say.”
  • The Reds have interest in the Phillies‘ Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury.
  • The Cardinals‘ top Trade Deadline priority should be starting pitching and not a replacement for the injured Yadier Molina, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • The Cardinals‘ due diligence with David Price is reminiscent of their pursuit of Matt Holliday in 2009, tweets Strauss’ colleague at the P-D, Derrick Goold (Twitter links).
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin has downplayed the prospects of making a major deal before the Trade Deadline citing the lack of playing time for a bat and the limited impact a reliever can have because of the few innings they pitch, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the ask is still high on the trade market, but the club has the payroll flexibility to make a move. “It’s the basic law of supply and demand,” Huntington said. “There’s not a lot of teams that are looking to sell, and there are a lot of teams looking to buy. There’s not a ton of players out there who are significant upgrades. There are some guys you think can be, so as a result asking prices higher than you’d like. It’s a balance of what do you give up for projected current wins for projected future wins.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


West Notes: Trout, Ackley, Castillo, Uggla, Towers

You probably will not be surprised to learn that Angels star Mike Trout has once again been rated the game’s most valuable asset by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Though he now comes with a long-term financial commitment, Trout has also promised away three more seasons of club control and remains highly underpaid for his services. Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks also made a leap, moving into the third overall slot on Cameron’s top fifty; the entire series is, of course, well worth a read.

Here’s the latest from the game’s West divisions:

  • Mariners outfielder (and former second baseman) Dustin Ackley has drawn significant trade interest, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Clubs are interested in a chance at a turnaround from a player who was once one of the game’s top prospects, notes Heyman. With Robinson Cano etched in stone at second and Seattle looking to upgrade its production in the corner outfield, Ackley could theoretically be included as part of a package or dealt away to create roster space.
  • The Mariners plan to be on hand to watch Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo in his upcoming showcase, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Of course, that does not mean that Seattle is in a unique position, as GM Jack Zduriencik explains. “Any time there’s someone out there showcasing, we’re going to have somebody there,” said Zduriencik. “This would be no different, but most other clubs will have somebody there as well.” Of course, the M’s are a particularly interesting team to watch with regard to Castillo given the team’s need for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.
  • The Giants are considering bringing in just-released second baseman Dan Uggla, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly reports on Twitter. While Marco Scutaro is back on the active roster, it may take some time to determine whether he’ll be a regular, healthy contributor. Indeed, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle said in an appearance on the Sports Virus Podcast that it is “not a real optimistic situation” for Scutaro to hold down the club’s second base job.
  • Veteran starter Tim Hudson told Shea at the All-Star break that he and the rest of the club would welcome the addition of an impact player, especially a bat to bolster the lineup. There “wouldn’t be a guy in the locker room” who wouldn’t be for it,” said Hudson.
  • The Padres have not reached out to the Diamondbacks to discuss a possible new role in the organization for current Arizona GM (and former San Diego GM) Kevin Towers, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. “I know and like him,” said executive chairman Ron Fowler. “He has had a great relationship with many people in all areas of the Padres’ organization. That said, we have not asked for permission from the D’backs to talk to Kevin. I don’t know how this story got started.”

Braves Release Dan Uggla

2:05pm: The Braves announced that they have officially released Uggla (Twitter link).

1:40pm: The Braves will release embattled second baseman Dan Uggla, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).

Dan Uggla

The 34-year-old Uggla’s tenure with the Braves came to a rocky end, to say the least, as the former All-Star slugger’s bat has eroded over the past few seasons. Dating back to Opening Day 2013, Uggla is hitting just .175/.295/.332 with a 31 percent strikeout rate. However, Uggla still has about $5.2MM remaining on this year’s $13MM salary before earning $13MM next year, which likely made the Braves reluctant to cut ties, as they hoped to salvage some value from those years. The Uggla saga has been an ongoing source of frustration for many Braves fans, even after Uggla lost the vast majority of his playing time to young second baseman Tommy La Stella.

Originally acquired from the Marlins in exchange for Mike Dunn and Omar Infante, Uggla quickly signed a five-year, $62MM extension with the Braves. While he cracked 36 homers in his first year in Atlanta and batted .233/.311/.453, things went south quickly from that point forth. Uggla’s power faded in the second half of an otherwise fairly typical season in 2012, leaving him with a .220/.348/.384 triple-slash.

Overall, Uggla will spend only three and a half seasons of his five-year deal with the Braves, and his time in Atlanta will conclude with a .209/.317/.391 line. Baseball-Reference pegs his time with the Braves at 2.5 WAR, while Fangraphs is more fond of his first two years with the club and values him at 5.3 WAR. Either way, the contract certainly didn’t pan out the way that Braves GM Frank Wren had hoped it would.

As for next steps for Uggla, he’ll first have to clear release waivers — which should be no problem given his remaining salary — before he is free to sign with a new club. Any team could then roll the dice on Uggla for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Teams with a need at second base might be open to such a minimal financial risk. The Reds could use a second baseman with Brandon Phillips on the disabled list. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays, Giants and A’s have been linked to the second base market for quite some time as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.