On another front, one baseball man who recently spoke with the Marlins said it’s looking more and more like Dan Uggla will start the season in Florida. The arbitration-eligible Uggla would take a huge bite out of what is expected to be a $40 million payroll. Uggla staying could mean the Marlins start taking calls on Jorge Cantu, who as a fifth-year, arbitration-eligible player also is due a huge raise.
If this is true, it’s good news and bad news for Fish fans. With the San Francisco Giants apparently finished shopping for bats of the righty variety thanks to the signing of Mark DeRosa, the Marlins lost their primary suitor for Uggla’s services. With the market for second baseman already low and options such as Orlando Hudson still available without the need to give away prospects, it looks all but assured that Uggla will open camp still a Marlin.
How bad is that? Not terrible. Uggla still holds value above his contract thanks to his bat. The defensive projections are not awful for him either, meaning he still projects as a solidly above average contributor. But production was never the issue. With Uggla’s third year of arbitration coming, it seems impossible for the Marlins to keep the slugger through next year. If they don’t trade him now, they certainly won’t be able to the following offseason, meaning a non-tender is in order.
But here’s where the interesting news begins. Jorge Cantu is also in his last year with the team most likely. Cantu is in his final season of arbitration, set to earn around $5M. If you had to choose between Cantu’s production and $3M and Uggla’s production, I think most of us would choose the Uggla package. They are both likely not to be on the team next year. If Uggla has to be kept, Cantu is easily the best choice to be traded given their similar futures with the team. While Cantu does not provide much in the way of surplus value, he can still net a middling prospect, a bit more than what the team got for Matt Lindstrom. If that’s the case, the Marlins should pounce on a deal.
Uggla is likely a good win or so better than Cantu given their positional values (closer to 1 1/2 wins really). If Uggla or Chris Coghlan can be asked to play third base (and given Uggla’s impending free agency, he would be remiss not to try and learn the position), the Marlins would be set in the infield with Gaby Sanchez, Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Coghlan. Off the top of my head, I’d say that’s an infield defense worth some 10 to 12 runs below average over 150 games. In comparison, using Cantu at third and either Coghlan or Emilio Bonifacio at second would bring the infield to around 15 to 17 runs below average. That’s not a lot, but take into account Uggla’s far superior offensive value, and you’ve got a much better package, an advantage worth more than $3M in the market.
Of course, whether it’s worth it to the Marlins remains to be seen. And finding a trade partner for a first baseman and a weak third baseman will be tough, especially with the plethora of first basemen still remaining in the market. But the Marlins should be willing be take a eal for any low level starting prospect. I talked with Camden Crazies’ Daniel Moroz yesterday on Twitter, saying that any top 30 organizational starting pitching prospect for Cantu would do. I’d say us Marlins fans would probably take that as well.