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.