On Monday, Dan Uggla agreed to a 7.8 million dollar contract for 2010, avoiding a second year of arbitration. This makes Uggla the highest paid player on the Marlins heading into 2010. Uggla has proven to be a valuable asset over the years – our dollar values have him as being worth at least 10 million dollars each year of his career, and both CHONE and the fans have projected him to be worth over 3 wins, which would put his free agent market value for this year at somewhere between 10.5 and 12 million dollars, based on the current state of the free agent market.
So it seems like the Marlins are getting a pretty solid discount on Uggla, even if it is slightly above the 60% discount for second year arb-eligible players that we usually see. Still, rumors are persistent that the Marlins will attempt to move Uggla before the season starts, despite the pressure from the MLB and the MLBPA to increase payroll.
The main reason for this is that Uggla is a poor fit for this Marlins team. At second base, Uggla is a poor defender. His career UZR/150 is -3, and he’s had two -9 or worse seasons in the past three years, suggesting that his true talent is actually closer to his CHONE-projected defensive value of -7. He’s still valuable, as a 3-win player, but the Marlins have better options in their system.
Right now, the Marlins have Chris Coghlan in LF, but he is a natural second baseman, who put up slightly above average TotalZone numbers in the minors at 2B (+3 overall from 2007-2009). Coghlan is projected to be a roughly average corner outfielder, and he would also likely be roughly average at 2B as well. Given that the position adjustment for 2B is about a win higher than that for LF, that adds about a win to Coghlan’s value, taking him from about 2.3 WAR/150G to 3.3 WAR/150G.
If we take Uggla out of the picture and move Coghlan to 2B, the Marlins likely move Brett Carroll into either LF or RF. Carroll is a very solid defender with a weak bat, and CHONE projects him at about roughly 1.0 WAR per 150 G. Alejandro De Aza is projected favorably by CHONE and could compete for a job in this scenario – he’s projected to be a roughly average hitter and a good defender in the corner, worth about 2.0 WAR per 150 G [EDIT: De Aza was claimed by the White Sox on waivers.]
If we split the difference here and say that that the Marlins could get 1.5 WAR out of LF and 3.3 WAR out of 2B without Uggla, and they get about 2.3 WAR out of LF and 3.1 WAR out of 2B with Uggla, then that’s a difference of only 0.6 wins. Uggla could possibly shift to first base, displacing Gaby Sanchez (projected for about 1.1 WAR/150G) and play average defense, which would be worth about 2.3 WAR due to the position adjustment. Again, though, this significantly lowers Uggla’s value to the Marlins to a point where his value is certainly higher to the rest of the league.
With the 8 million dollars cleared by Uggla, the Marlins could sign a SP like Joel Pineiro, Erik Bedard, or Ben Sheets, who would move into the rotation immediately and nearly his full value over replacement would be realized. It’s possible that they would still have money to spend on their weak corner IF spots then, and could possibly replace Jorge Cantu with Joe Crede or Sanchez with Russell Branyan, and that’s even before accounting for the possible value they could acquire by trading Uggla.
If the Marlins move Uggla, cries of penny-pinching will likely arise. However, we must wait and see what they would do after a trade before we can truly make this judgment. Dan Uggla has more value to other teams than he does to Florida, and as such the prudent move for Florida is to move this asset.
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