Inbox: Can Braves make successful Uggla trade?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman fields offseason questions from Atlanta fans
What if the Braves are unable to trade Dan Uggla? It seems to be a known fact he will not be back next year, but finding a team willing to take on even a small portion of his contract is far from a given.
-- Jake L., Birmingham, Ala.
While the Braves will certainly make every attempt to move Uggla and a portion of the $26 million he is owed over the next two seasons, they understand it will not be easy. Those teams that can't afford Robinson Cano to satisfy their need for a second baseman will have the option of signing Omar Infante or possibly trading for either the Rangers' Ian Kinsler or the Angels' Howie Kendrick.
Then, of course, the Braves have to deal with the fact that they are trying to trade a player who has hit .185 with 33 home runs and a .673 OPS in the 238 games he has played dating back to June 1, 2012. And, oh yeah, Uggla spent this year dealing with vision problems that led him to the bench in September and to the role of spectator when he was left off the National League Division Series roster in October.
When trying to put a positive spin on Uggla's potential, the Braves will be left to point out that he has drawn more walks than any second baseman over the past two seasons and that Cano is the only member of the group who has homered more frequently during this span.
With that being said, the .704 OPS Uggla has compiled over the past two seasons ranks 18th among 39 qualified second basemen.
The Braves can try to trade Uggla with the understanding they might have to eat at least 60 percent of the $26 million he is still owed. They can evaluate him during Spring Training and then determine whether it makes sense to keep him, continue attempting to trade him or simply eat the remainder of his contract by releasing him.
It seems highly unlikely that they would entertain that last option. Regardless of how bad Uggla has been over the past couple of seasons, it would make sense to allow him the chance to become the latest of the many players in baseball history who have produced one of those unexpected rebound seasons.
While hitting .179 with 22 home runs and a .362 slugging percentage this past season, Uggla joined some rare undistinguished company. Uggla's slugging percentage ranks last of any 20-homer season compiled in Major League history, and his batting average matches Rob Deer (1991 Tigers) for the worst.
After combining to hit .194 with a .722 OPS the previous two seasons, Deer bounced back to hit .247 with 32 homers and a .547 slugging percentage for Detroit in 1992.
Right now, it might seem difficult to envision Uggla having a similar rebound season. But whether he's in Atlanta or elsewhere, you can guarantee he will have a chip on his shoulder and the rare desire to once again draw a comparison to Deer. Only this time, it would be in a positive manner.
Do you think the Braves regret not making a qualifying offer to Tim Hudson?
-- Matt G., Charlotte, N.C.
Now that Hudson has signed his two-year, $23 million contract with the Giants, some fans might be asking why the Braves did not position themselves for Draft pick compensation by extending Hudson the qualifying offer, which was a one-year deal worth $14.1 million.
But had the Braves made this offer two weeks ago, there is a good chance Hudson would have accepted and provided himself a chance to remain home with a salary that both trumps the one he will draw in 2014 and stands as a much larger figure than the Braves were comfortable providing.
Yes, Atlanta would have liked to bring Hudson back to provide a veteran presence to its young starting rotation. But not at the cost of $14.1 million.
In Hudson, the Giants are getting an accomplished veteran who is going to prove valuable to their clubhouse and continue to display his intense desire to compete. But at the same time, it is too early to know exactly how productive the 38-year-old pitcher will be as he attempts to return from the fractured right ankle that sidelined him for the final two months this past season.
An executive from an American League club that was interested in Hudson said he was not worried about Hudson, because he was not coming back from an arm injury. Obviously, the Giants shared this mindset. But there seemingly should be some concern given the fact that Hudson is attempting to return from a significant injury to his push foot.
Hudson struggled through the final three weeks of May and then ended up compiling a 2.73 ERA in his final 10 starts of 2013. Through this successful stretch, the righty's fastball consistently rested between 90-91 mph, and he possessed the arm strength he needed to produce optimal action on his splitter and sinker.
If Hudson is able to make a full recovery, there is certainly reason to believe he could continue serving as a valuable No. 2 or 3 starter in San Francisco's rotation. But if the ankle injury limits him, he could once again find himself dealing with the velocity issues that cause him to express legitimate concern during Spring Training.
While Hudson was not pleased with Atlanta's initial one-year offer (maximum value with incentives was in the neighborhood of $7 million), he was happy with the stronger push general manager Frank Wren made over the past couple of weeks.
But at the end of the day, after weighing the risk and evaluating what he still possesses in his rotation, Wren had plenty of reason to pass on the temptation of making an offer that significantly exceeded his comfort zone.
Evan Gattis has to be an attractive trade candidate for a lot of clubs. Are the Braves open to moving him, or are they counting on him as their Opening Day catcher?
-- Mike M., Clifton, Tenn.
There's no doubt that a number of clubs, especially those in the AL, would be interested in the tremendous power potential possessed by Gattis, who has hit 21 homers and compiled a .483 slugging percentage through his first 354 career at-bats. But unless the return is significant, there is a good chance El Oso Blanco will continue roaming in Atlanta next year.
As things currently stand, Gattis seems to be the most likely candidate to begin next season as Atlanta's starting catcher. While the Braves will also have the option of going with Christian Bethancourt, it seems they would rather allow the prospect to continue building on the offensive success he had during the second half of 2013 with Double-A Mississippi.
Out of Tommy La Stella, Shae Simmons, JR Graham and Bethancourt, who has the best shot at making the Opening Day roster?
-- Jeff M., Lakeland, Fla.
If the Braves end up trading Uggla, La Stella would come to Spring Training as a top candidate to begin next season as Atlanta's starting second baseman. Graham has made significant strides since his right shoulder sidelined him for the final 3 1/2 months of this past season. Still, while there is a chance he could end up in Atlanta's bullpen or rotation at some point next year, it seems safer to assume Graham would begin the 2014 season back at the Minor League level.
While Simmons has established himself as one of the organization's most intriguing pitching prospects, he certainly could benefit from the opportunity to continue developing in the Minors. The 23-year-old right-handed reliever has made 66 professional appearances, and just 11 of those have come above the Class A level.