Dan Uggla is Available, and the Colorado Rockies Should Pursue Him

There is a hole at 2B for the Colorado Rockies. The past 5 years have seen a combination of journeymen (Kaz Matsui, Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll), farmhands (Jayson Nix, Clint Barmes, Jonathan Hererra), and Omar Quintanilla. In fact, Colorado hasn't had a steady 2B since Eric Young Sr., and he was traded the Dodgers for Pedro Astacio. 2B has been in a perpetual state of flux for over a decade in Colorado.

If the season started today, there would still be a 3-man battle for the 2B position, between utilityman Jonathan Herrera, former first-round pick Chris Nelson, and Eric Young Jr., not accounting for Clint Barmes (who is a likely trade or Non-Tender candidate). If I were to pick a player, I'd likely give the nod to Chris Nelson, purely on his former-first-round-pick billing.

Frankly, those players don't really light my lamp. I'm interested in Nelson, again, based on his former draft profile, and I'm interested in Young purely because of his speed, but past that, I'm not terribly sold on either of them, at least not for the 2011 season.

News has come along that the Marlins are unable to make ends meet on a contract extension with Uggla, and knowing the Marlins' typical MO, that makes Uggla potentially available. The Rockies should definitely pursue Uggla.

Click past the jump for a bit of a breakdown on the Uggla situation.

Here are some fun facts about Dan Uggla:

1. Out of all 2B, all time, there have been 63 individual seasons where a 2B hit over 25 HR and over 100 OPS+. Jeff Kent did it 6 times, and Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, Dan Uggla, and Joe Gordon had 5 such seasons apiece. Chase Utley and Alfonso Soriano have 4 apiece.

2. Out of all 2B, all time, there have been 28 individual seasons where a 2B hit over 30 HR and posted an OPS+ greater than 100. Of those 28 seasons, 3 of them belonged to Rogers Hornsby, Jeff Kent, Chase Utley, and Alfonso Soriano (3 apiece, that is). Bret Boone, Joe Gordon, and Ryne Sandberg had 2 apiece. Aaron Hill, Bobby Grich, Brandon Phillips, Ian Kinsler, and Jay Bell all did it once. Dan Uggla has done it 4 times. Not only has Uggla done it 4 times, but Uggla is the only 2B ever to have 4 30+ HR seasons.

3. Dan Uggla has never had a sub-2 WAR season per fangraphs and only 1 season sub-2 WAR per BBR (2007).

4. Dan Uggla averages 3.8 WAR per season.

5. Dan Uggla led the NL in 2B fielding assists in 2009.

Here are some not-so-fun facts about Dan Uggla:

1. Dan Uggla has posted a positive UZR twice: 2006 and 2008. Ever other season has been -7 UZR or worse. If UZR isn't your cup of tea, Uggla has never posted a positive TZ. His 2006 and 2008 campaigns were the least-negative of how he grades out.

2. Uggla led the NL in 2B errors in 2010.

3. Uggla once made like 3 errors in the 2008 All-Star game, making Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook look bad by proxy.

Fact is, Uggla is not the greatest option at 2B defensively, especially when you account for Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, and Jhoulys Chacin as moderate to extreme groundballers.

The Marlins infield defense was pretty much entirely negative, between Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Wes Helms, and Jorge Cantu. Gaby Sanchez actually was just a shade below average, so I should credit them that, but the point stands. The Marlins pitching staff isn't exceptionally groundball heavy, either. Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez could be labeled as moderate groundballers, but nothing as heavy as, say Aaron Cook.

Despite the poor grades the Marlins IF defense got, they allowed the same number of runs as the Rockies, 717, despite the Florida pitching staff grading out as worse than the Rockies (per xFIP and WAR). Could it possibly be that a poor infield defense might not have the drastic impact on run prevention as we might think? I guess my point is that having an entire infield of butchers is going to hurt a team, but having 3/4 of the players in your infield be average to Gold Glove level is going to overshadow that one player who doesn't quite cut the snuff.

Which brings up another point, why are we fretting over 2B? While 2B is obviously more important on the double play, the Rockies made the World Series with Garrett Atkins at 3B, and Atkins' 2007 was worse than any season that Dan Uggla's ever had.

So Uggla probably won't drastically improve on defense anywhere he goes, but the major opponents of Uggla are under the assumption that Uggla will be a 2B his entire tenure with wherever he lands. There just is no way that any team throwing $14M+ a year at Uggla will tolerate his glove through age 35, a shift is in his future whether he likes it or not, to 3B or 1B. Given Todd Helton's likely near retirement, this could work out swimmingly should the Rockies A. make a trade for Uggla and B. Extend him.

Cost is certainly an issue. Not the monetary cost of a contract, necessarily, but the cost to actually acquire Uggla. What if the price tag STARTED at Chris Nelson and Christian Friedrich? That might even be lowballing it. How much more can we give up before having our organizational mantra of internal development? I wouldn't sell the farm for him, but could a smart deal be struck?

"But what if his bat goes?" Well, Uggla is a career .837 OPS (.359 wOBA, 121 wRC+) bat, coming off of a .877 OPS (.381 wOBA, 140 wRC+) season. When you consider that the average NL 1B posts a .813 OPS (.802 if you account for the AL as well), Uggla could profile well in that position. His age and window of effectiveness lines up somewhat well with Colorado's window of contention.

Think about it this way. The "winner" out of Nelson and EYJ (and this is assuming Herrera gets a bench spot and Barmes is playing for another club) comes off of the bench in 2011 and the "loser" is either traded or gets regular reps in AAA. Uggla at 2B, Helton at 1B, and then a Troy-Glaus-type backing up 1B and 3B (for the record, Bill James predicts a moderate bounceback for Glaus in 2011, .779 OPS). 2012 rolls around, Helton bids Rockies fans a fond farewell and spends the remainder of his contract as a special assistant to Dan O'Dowd, Dan Uggla shifts over to 1B, Nelson/EYJ, after a full year in the majors, takes the 2B job.

It makes sense to me anyway. Uggla is a good batter, both home and away (122 wRC+ at home, 120 on the road) and against both LHP and RHP (114 wRC+ v LHP, 124 v RHP). His glove is a concern, but we have defensive backups who can be doubleswitched in the later innings. Winning teams do operate like this, you realize. His glove is awful at 2B, but can we tolerate 1, maybe 2 years of it? I argue that his bat will make patience pay off.

 

***Update***

Buster Olney just tweeted the following:

Other clubs perceive the Marlins are absolutely intent on moving Uggla ASAP, and they are not asking for a high rate of return -- a couple of decent guys, no A-plus prospects necessary. They know Uggla's salary and impending free agency precludes them from getting the top-of-the-line prospects.

This update might make a Chris Nelson + Friedrich OVERpaying. This trade just became a lot more feasible. And should happen.

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