How much line will they give Dan Uggla if he underperforms next year? He hurt us more than helped us when he struggled.
-- Richard E., Canton, Ga.
There's no doubt that the first two years of this five-year, $62 million relationship did not go exactly the way the Braves envisioned. But as the third year of this agreement approaches, the club can still hold out hope that the veteran second baseman proves to be just a little more consistent and capable of producing the kind of numbers that had been envisioned.
The more you look at the numbers Uggla has compiled during his first two years in Atlanta, the harder it is to pin down what type of player he is on offense. Somehow, he hit .276 with an .876 OPS during the first 55 games he played and then batted .185 with a .644 OPS over the next 99 games.
Then there was 2011, when he hit .173 with a .568 OPS in the first 86 games and then batted .301 with a .982 OPS in the final 75 games of the season.
Accounting for his final 75 games in 2011 and the first 55 he played this past year, Uggla combined to hit .291 with 34 home runs and a .938 OPS. This sample size of 130 games shows a production level that would have certainly exceeded all of the expectations the Braves had when they provided Uggla this lucrative deal.
This span accounts for a little more than 40 percent of the games Uggla has played with the Braves. However, it certainly does not serve as an accurate indication of what he has done during this span.
Uggla has combined to hit .227 with 55 home runs, a .329 on-base percentage and .421 slugging percentage during his first two years in Atlanta.
Standing alone, these numbers do not show how Uggla's production has virtually disappeared for long stretches in each of the last two seasons. Those who have followed the Braves closely the past two years, have gained a clear understanding of Uggla's ability to be a very streaky hitter.
As the Braves and Uggla prepare for the third season of this relationship, it seems safe to say both would like to spend the next three years avoiding the long, maddening stretches that have filled the past two years.
How significant was the Braves' interest in either of the former Twins outfielders, Denard Span or Ben Revere? Span went to the Nationals in exchange for a Minor Leaguer. That might have been a better use of Tommy Hanson.
-- David C., Marianna, Fla.
If everything had gone exactly the way the Braves would have liked, they would have signed B.J. Upton and then traded for Span. But while announcing Upton's deal, they learned that the Nationals had landed Span in exchange for what the Twins were seeking -- a talented young pitching prospect with great upside.
Given they are in a rebuilding mode, the Twins were certainly not going to be interested in taking a gamble on Hanson. So while Atlanta liked Span a lot, it did not necessarily provide the best fit for the Twins.
The same could be said in regards to Shin-Soo Choo. The Braves targeted Choo and had a feeling they might get him up until the point that they learned the Indians had opted to include him in a three-team trade with the Reds and D-backs. The Indians could not pass the opportunity to get highly-regarded pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, outfielder Drew Stubbs and two relievers in the deal.
What are the chances that Sean Gilmartin makes his Major League debut this season?
-- Levi C., Augusta, Ga.
Without putting specific odds on the possibility, there is no doubt that Gilmartin will be just a phone call away from the big leagues. The 22-year-old left-hander will likely spend most of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. If a rotation spot opens in Atlanta, he certainly will be one of the top options.
As things currently stand, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado could both begin the season in Atlanta, with one serving as the fifth starter and the other in a relief role.
Gilmartin combined to go 6-10 with a 3.84 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this past year. With 33 professional starts under his belt, he has already gained more experience than Mike Minor had when he was forced to come to the Majors for the final two months of the 2010 season.
With all the talk about finding a leadoff hitter/left fielder, why has there been no talk about Jordan Schafer being considered for the position?
-- Jon M., Parsippany, N.J.
The Braves brought Schafer back to the organization to provide depth to their organization. If he does not land an Opening Day roster spot as a backup outfielder, he will likely begin the season with Gwinnett.
Once the Braves' top prospect, Schafer has never been the same since he injured his left wrist during the fourth game of his Major League career in 2009. After hitting .211 with a .297 on-base percentage for the Astros this past year, he was placed on waivers. The Braves claimed him with the belief that his speed and defense could still make him a potential asset off of the bench.