In order for the Braves to pursue a second baseman, Uggla would have to be traded, jettisoned, fired into space, or otherwise liberated from the roster. The rest of this post is under the assumption that the team will do this, and will be on the market either for a starting player or for a useful platoon infielder who could team up for at-bats with players already in the organization, like Tommy La Stella. This player would have to be an upgrade from in-house options — i.e., he’d have to be better than at least one member of the 25-man roster — but cheap enough not to get in the way of extensions and/or arb-eligible stars.
Potential Trading Partners for an Infielder
- Los Angeles Angels: The Angels have a lot of needs, and they might not mind moving Howie Kendrick, who has a limited no-trade clause. They’re also loaded, so they are one of the teams that might be able to take on a good portion of Uggla’s salary, in the right move. The Braves have matched up with the Angels in the past and might look to do it again this winter.
- Cincinnati Reds: We all know the benefits of adding a player like Brandon Phillips and subtracting a player like Uggla, but adding Phillips’ contract would greatly diminish the chances of extending our young hitters.
- Baltimore Orioles: The O’s need pitching and will probably be looking for a second baseman. Hopefully, in Uggla’s case, they wouldn’t mind a “second baseman.”
- Cleveland Indians: The Indians look to be losing a few impact starters and are evidently shopping Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. (I’m not sure their heart is actually in it with Kipnis. Why would it be?) Cabrera is interesting as he’d provide a stopgap for La Stella; his bad glove at short might be slightly less bad at second, and he can hit for a middle infielder. Kipnis, it should go without saying, would cost more than we can afford.
- Minnesota Twins: The Twins are basically punting their major league team until their stacked minor league system graduates its top prospects. Second baseman Brian Dozier isn’t as good as his 2013 campaign — he came out of nowhere as a 26-year old to have a three-win season — but I’m sure they could be convinced to sell high for the right price. They wouldn’t be willing to pay much of Uggla’s salary, but if the Braves send Uggla plus money plus a prospect, there might be a deal.
- Milwaukee Brewers: This could have all the makings of a classic bad contract swap. Rickie Weeks, after a terrible 2013, has one year left on his contract then a vesting option. With more money being owed to Uggla, the Braves would have to sweeten a deal to acquire Weeks. This seems more like a lateral move than anything else.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Dee Gordon has surely worn out his welcome in the Dodger organization, but he has the speed to be a passable utility infielder, and the Dodgers have never shied away from taking a flier on a bad contract. This kind of trade wouldn’t improve the Braves roster much, but it could be a useful salary dump.
- San Diego Padres: Logan Forsythe could be a buy-low candidate. He was putrid in ’13, but has good Minor League numbers and a very good walk rate, and his well-below average BABIP in 2013 suggests he could rebound in 2014. He could probably use a change of scenery.
Free Agent Targets for 2nd Base
- Omar Infante: The best 2b candidate on the Free Agent market to meet the Braves’ needs, Infante is a steady 2-3 WAR player that has the flexibility to play any position but catcher. Omar sported a .795 OPS in 2013, due to a spike in power and a BABIP about .020 points higher than his career BABIP. Not easy to walk, but neither is he easy to strikeout. This would make a good fit for a high walk/high strikeout offense. He was used primarily as a 2nd baseman for Detroit and played slightly above average defense at the position. Because of his defensive flexibility, signing Omar could also give the Braves a chance to break La Stella in slowly with starts against RHP, moving Omar around the infield to give rest to the other starters.
- Kelly Johnson: We all know what Johnson can provide; patience, power, and strings of 100 plus plate appearances where he might as well be wearing a blindfold in the batter’s box. Kelly was very good for the Diamondbacks in 2009 and has been very mediocre since. He’s likely to be a positive WAR player in ’14, so he has a leg up on Uggla, but not anything of real impact.
- Brian Roberts: The Orioles love them some Brian Roberts. Nothing else can explain the fact that, even after barely tallying a full year’s worth of ABs over the course of the last four seasons, the Orioles still have interest in re-signing him. Of course, from ’05-’09, you be hard-pressed to find a better second sacker than Roberts, who averaged 4.6 WAR/season. But he has barely played a lick since then. He’d likely be less-expensive than the first two, but at this point in his career, he’s more of a glue guy than a baseball player.
- Rafael Furcal: Pitchers aren’t the only ones that are receiving new elbow ligaments these days! After leaving Atlanta, Furcal was a 3 WAR/year player for the Dodgers, then moved on to the Cardinals where he was mediocre. He spent last year recovering from Tommy John and should be well-rested. In a SS-depleted FA market, Furcal could draw some interest. But injury issues aside, considering the drama he caused a few years back by committing to the Braves then backing out (see: “Furcal Rule“), it’ll be a cold day in Kuwait before the Braves try to re-sign him.
In my opinion, the only candidate that makes a lick of sense is Omar.
Then again, have you noticed how much flack Robinson Cano has been taking for signing with Jay-Z and allegedly accepting improper gifts from him, while other teams have gone out of their way to indicate that they think his asking price is too high? There’s still just about no way that his price falls below $200 million, which is probably about $126 million more than the Braves ever want to pay for a free agent.
But if his price falls to $74 million… go get him, Wren!