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Atlanta Acquires Uggla, Florida’s Return Unimpressive

November 18, 2010

Lost amongst a multitude of trades, award announcements, and rumors was a relatively significant trade that was completed just two nights ago. The timing was slightly ironic as just a few days prior I had taken a look at what teams could potentially be the most likely suitors if the Florida Marlins decided to deal their slugging second baseman Dan Uggla. I largely ignored Atlanta as a viable option in my discussion for two reasons. First, the Braves and Marlins share the same division and I generally don’t expect that players of Uggla’s caliber will be traded within the division. Second, the Braves seemingly did not need Uggla considering the emergence of Martin Prado this past season. Yet, Atlanta is just where he was dealt by the Marlins and many have been questioning the move.

Coming to the decision that a trade was necessary and actually completing such a deal does seem reasonable given the circumstances. Dealing away players before they get too expensive has been common for the Marlins over the past few seasons. It’s a trend that has become quite unfortunate for fans of the team. Uggla, who is one year away from free agency, was seeking a contract extension but ultimately the player and team could not agree on a deal. Various reports seem to indicate that the two sides were only $2 Million apart in terms of average annual value for a new deal. To most of us that may seem like a miniscule amount, especially considering the team is set to open a new stadium in 2012, but to the Marlins it was a difference they were not willing to overcome*.

* Think about this for a moment. The Marlins were one of the worst drawing teams in terms of attendance over the past few seasons. Had the team been able to entice a few hundred more fans per game the increased revenue from ticket sales likely could have made up that $2 Million difference. Add in the income from parking, souvenirs, and concessions and that certainly would cover it. In a way, Marlins fans can only blame themselves for the team’s inability (or lack of desire) to spend the money it would take in order to keep its own players.

So, without a new deal in place the Marlins completed a deal with Atlanta that brought a return of Omar Infante and Michael Dunn back to Florida. Infante is a super utility type who spent time at second base, shortstop, third base, left field, and right field in 2010. He hit .321/.359/.416 line in 506 plate appearances with the Braves and was selected (albeit surprisingly) to his first All Star appearance. Over his career he has always been known for his defensive versatility but offense has not been a big part of his game. Dunn, meanwhile, is a hard throwing lefty reliever that the Braves had acquired last winter from the Yankees. Over 23.0 career innings he has an impressive K/9 rate of 12.5 but does walk a good number of batters (8.6 BB/9) so he’ll need to harness his control in order to remain effective. He does give Florida yet another option for their rebuilt bullpen.

Infante and Dunn are by no means bad players that could easily be replaced with someone off of the junk pile, but neither is a franchise-changing talent. Infante has largely been overrated, in my opinion, and really is just a utility player coming off of a career season. Dunn is just a reliever with promise, but no proven track record. The Marlins ultimately could have and should have gotten more in return for one of their best players.

Early reports out of Florida said the team was looking for 2-3 prospects, including a catcher and center fielder, in return for Uggla. For a player of his caliber – he is one of 9 players to post 30+ home runs in each of the past four seasons – a return of 2-3 prospects seemed absolutely reasonable. For a team like the Marlins who prefer not to spend big on players that would be an ideal situation. They could easily replace Uggla on the roster with younger, more inexpensive pieces while adding to the organizational depth and saving on payroll.

Instead they receive a utility player, a lefty reliever, and payroll flexibility (much of which was spent when they overpaid to sign free agent catcher John Buck). Hopefully the Marlins are happy with the return. To me, and many others like me, it’s a large disappointment.

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