There’s been some discussion on the Giants and Dan Uggla. The Giants, who drastically need to upgrade their offense, have been rumored as a suitor for Uggla despite claims that nothing is imminent. With Freddy Sanchez’s ability to play third base — he’s logged over 1,300 career innings at the position — the Giants could very well add another bat at second base. Let’s check out Uggla’s numbers for hitting, fielding, and baserunning from 2006-2009 to try and get an idea of what he would offer the Giants.
Uggla’s calling card has always been his bat — and for good reason. By FG’s park-adjusted batting runs, Uggla’s bat has been worth 11, 10.9, 24.4, and 14.5 runs above average over the past 4 seasons. Uggla will swing-and-miss a lot (career K% of 26.1%) but he offsets his strikeouts with the ability to draw walks (career BB% of 10.9%) and hit for power (career ISO of .225). Uggla’s offensive package has been worth anywhere from +1 to +2 wins per season.
One thing that I thought was interesting was that Uggla actually posted his 2nd best season with the bat last year despite hitting for a career low BABIP of .277. Uggla’s .243 batting average from his ’09 season will turn off BA junkies, but he walked at a career high of 14% per plate appearance and he still hit for above average power. As a hitter, Uggla will walk, strikeout, and hit the longball.
Another interesting aspect is Uggla’s defense. He’s never been known as a gloveman. Tango’s 2009 Fan Scouting Reports for 2B has Uggla ranked near the bottom for the position — somewhere between Skip Schumaker and Ronnie Belliard. His fielding runs (based on UZR scores) have fluctuated a good bit. He’s run the course from +6.9 runs above average to -10.1 runs below average. Scouting reports and the fielding data should lead us to believe that Uggla is most likely a below-average defensive 2B. If we use a simple 5/4/3 weighting for 2010, we would project Uggla in the neighborhood of -5 runs at 2B. Below average, but not a bottom dweller defender.
Finally, Uggla profiles as an average, if slow-footed runner. His baserunning scores are pretty respectable for a guy that’s never stolen more than 6 bags in a season. He’s adding a tiny bit of value with his feet on the base paths.
Costs and Positions
Since 2006, Uggla has been worth 4.1, 2.7, 4.9, and 2.9 wins above replacement level. Why then would the Marlins want to part with an above-average player like Uggla? One word: money. Uggla earned $5.35M in 2009 with the Marlins and the team, always in cost-cutting mode, surely doesn’t like the idea of paying Uggla for 2010. If Uggla goes back to arbitration, he should earn between $8-9M for next season. There’s a good chance the Marlins would like to save themselves some cash and turn Uggla into prospects or pre-arb players.
There’s a good topic on Uggla’s value, here, but to acquire Uggla, the Giants would most likely have to part with B-ish prospects. Think Nick Noonan, Conor Gillaspie, or maybe even someone like Nate Schierholtz. The less of a trade package it would take to acquire Uggla, the better. It’s possible that the Marlins might be swayed more by salary relief right now than pure prospect potential.
If the Giants trade for Uggla, is he an upgrade for the team (assuming Sanchez is moved to 3B) over just acquiring a 1B and keeping Pablo Sandoval at 3B?
Two possible infield arrangements: (1) Sanchez 3B, Uggla 2B, Sandoval 1B vs (2) Sandoval 3B, Sanchez 2B, FA 1B worth 2.15 wins
If the Giants chose to install Uggla in the infield and shift Sanchez to third and Pablo to first, you should see something around 8.3 wins for the three players based on 700 PA’s — you can adjust the PT numbers accordingly if you want . If the Giants choose to keep Pablo at third and sign a 2.15 win first baseman (Johnson, Delgado, Branyan, LaRoche) then the combination between the 3 positions is about 8.8 wins. That’s a difference of .5 wins between the two configurations.
I think it goes to show that until Sandoval shows that he can’t field third base any more you should leave him put to maximize his value. The difference in positional adjustments between 1B vs. 3B is 15 runs (-12.5 runs vs. +2.5 runs). Assuming average defense at 1B, until Sandoval starts playing 3B at -10 runs, you should probably leave him put. The other question I think this raises is this: is it better to trade prospects for Uggla or is it better to sign a 1B from the FA market? Player’s like Nick Johnson and Carlos Delgado could be cheap 1-year acquisitions. It’s going to depend on how much the Marlins want for Uggla. If they are going to give him away, you could save the money spent on 1B and apply it to the OF (Mike Cameron?). Most likely signing a FA 1B instead of trading resources for Uggla is the better bet. You retain your prospects and as long as Sandoval can play 3B, you’ve got a more favorable setup (by a swing of .5 wins) for three infield positions.
Uggla could be a nice backup option if the price is right and the Giants can’t settle on a 1B. As long as Sandoval can field 3B at around -5 runs, it makes more sense to upgrade 1B than it does to acquire Dan Uggla which would most likely shift Sandoval to 1B.