The Uggla Options

We talked a couple days ago about Dan Uggla’s rejection of the deal the Marlins offered, supposedly a four year, $48M deal. One additional point of interest that comes along with the deal’s rejection is that the Marlins now have a variety of options with Uggla. Rather than locking Uggla into a long-term deal with the uncertainties of the future, the Marlins have the possibility of receiving value anyway from the uncertainties of the future of younger players in the form of either prospects or draft picks.

While the Marlins continue to work towards keeping Uggla around past 2011, Marlins fans are intrigued as to what they ultimately receive if and when negotiations break down. What factors should the Marlins consider in their decision on what to do with Uggla if he ultimately does not resign with the ball club? We’re going to use some figures from research shown in this wonderful Beyond the Boxscore piece by friend of the Maniac Sky Kalkman to discuss this.

The Options

Let’s leave in the option of a five-year extension as well. Here are the options the Fish have available to them:

1. Propose and have a five-year extension accepted (this presumes Uggla will officially not sign the currently offered deal).
2. Trade him during the offseason.
3. Trade him sometime during the season (this assumes a time closer to the trade deadline, probably not through May)
4. Keep him throughout the season, offer him arbitration and receive the draft pick compensation from him signing elsewhere.

What are the differences between these options? Theoretically, there should not be much. Any discussion about these options should include a discussion of surplus value, or value provided by the player above the value of his contract or cost. With our projection from the linked MM article, I have Uggla projected as worth roughly $5.5M. The extra year, extending into his age 36 season, probably drops the surplus value down to $3.4M. In either case, it is not nearly as much value as the Marlins would be getting if they didn’t extend him, as strange as it sounds. If you assume Uggla’s decline at 0.5 WAR/season, he remains mostly even in value for the two years after 2011 and loses about $5M in the final two seasons, provided the Marlins go with the salary structure I provided in the previous article and tack on $12M for the fifth and final season.

The Marlins would get about the same amount out of Uggla if they hold onto him for just this season, even without draft pick compensation. The Fish can pay him $10M this year and receive a projected $14.8M in return, almost $5M in surplus. Tack on the Type A compensation and the Marlins would receive around $10M in surplus value from him. The same amount theoretically should come via a trade, regardless of when we deal him; if we trade him now, all of that value will be put into prospects and other players coming back from the trade, while trading him later will reduce the size of the package but come with Uggla’s surplus performance while he remained on the Marlins.

What do you think?

I’m putting up this poll not only on the front page but also in this article before the jump. I’ve got a little bit of my opinion below, but before reading it, I’d like to see what the fans think the best option would be.

Banking on the front office

But I’d argue that, while theoretically correct, I do not believe the options are the same for this Marlins team. Acquiring prospects who have already been prepped by other organizations is obviously different than receiving draft picks, even after you consider the time value that prospects from other organizations have over those whom are drafted. The options of either trading for prospects or acquiring them via the draft have a lot to do with the talent and capabilities of the Marlins’ front office, scouting, and player development branches, and it’s these branches that could extract extra value or detract from the average value of these commodities.

The approximate $10M in surplus value that the Marlins could bring in for Uggla, when combining draft pick compensation with his 2011 projection, could bring in something close to a pair of Grade B hitters (as graded by John Sickels) or a Baseball-America pitcher ranked in the lower quartile of their yearly Top 100 list. While that haul seems pretty favorable, Marlins fans should not be expecting a whole lot in the way of prospects (thoughts of Madison Bumgarner, for example, are out of the question). Nevertheless, the Fish do have a tendency to pull off more “wins” in these trades than losses, and that may be something to consider. If the Marlins’ front office and scouting personnel can do an above average job in finding “diamonds in the rough” and extracting an above-value offer for Uggla, a trade might be worthwhile.

At the same time, the Marlins could hold onto Uggla and get his draft pick compensation. In this respect, the team would be banking on potentially competing and being able to get fairly predictable value from Uggla along with being able to succeed in the draft. Lately, the Marlins have had a mixed bag in terms of drafting, with some pleasant surprises (Chris Coghlan and Logan Morrison) and some disappointments (Brett Sinkbeil and Kyle Skipworth so far). Can the front office and the player development side do a better job of extracting extra value from draft picks than the team could get out of a trade? Would Dan Uggla’s presence on the team for an entire year be worthwhile to have for this club?

Choices, choices

I feel the choice ultimately boils down to what the Marlins have the most confidence in with regards to the following:

1. Dan Uggla’s steady expected performance this season and the team’s chances of competing
2. The ability of the front office and scouting department to locate the best package for the Uggla
3. The ability of the front office, scouting, and player development to make those draft picks worth their while

Which one do you have the most confidence in? I would personally entrust the Fish to make a trade, given that I generally dislike their draft policy. The Marlins rarely take “finished product” players from the collegiate ranks and are well-known for targeting high school pitchers first and foremost, even though such players are generally the worst first-round choices in terms of average results. Then again, if the team can compete this year, having Uggla on board would be much more beneficial than having assorted prospects in the minors, and the team would still receive draft picks at the end of the year.

What do you Maniacs think? Let’s hear it in the comments and in the poll!

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Tags: Dan Uggla Miami Marlins

  • Isiah

    I think one point hasn’t received enough attention, which is the +10 million saved each year that we don’t have uggla and use coghlan/ossie martinez at 2nd. hopefully Matt Dominguez will be ready (enough to be decent with plus fielding) for a midseason callup ala stanton, and coghlan won’t have a position, though he can play second, or maybe we move gaby to 3rd (might not be terrible, i feel his real issue is scooping up bad throws) and coghlan stays in left with lono at 1st.

    we have enough pieces to possibly cover for uggla over the next few years at a reduced cost(if coghlan/dominguez/ossie steps up to expected value) and maybe the team can put that $10 million to a putz (probably 4 million) and maybe a lefty starter/ prospects via an uggla trade or picks via free agent comp.
    because the marlins have severe monetary limitations, the amounts saved (and able to be applied elsewhere) each year must be considered in any analysis.

    • Michael Jong


      That’s an excellent point to make. Not signing him to a long-term deal does free up about $38M in salary over the next three years, which is a very substantial amount for a typically poor Marlins team. Some of that is made up for by the increase in payroll (the Fish are expected to go up to $70M in the first year of the new stadium), but it is still a significant savings. Whether the team uses it wisely (signing Stanton long-term if he proves strong once again this season) or not (wasting it on expensive bullpen parts in free agency) remains to be seen.

      You brought up Putz, whom I think the Fish would be interested in if he kept his price low. Sadly, I doubt he would go for a $4M/year deal unless the years were too long. I personally would never commit to a reliever for more than two years at a time.

  • Isiah

    i’m not really that interested in him in particular, i just like the word putz. but do you really think the marlins would be worse off in 2012 without Dan uggla signed on? i feel we can make up for him (other than the loss of a “feared power hitter” in the line-up, the better defense and speed along with a happier Hanley may get us close to even) and save the cash to upgrade elsewhere. i love uggla’s tough approach and work ethic, but he’s just too expensive for this team, and we have decent alternatives.

    and i do think that Hanley will be happy to have Uggla gone and regain the focus as the MVP (until Stanton matures).

    • Michael Jong


      I do think the team would be better with Uggla than without if you don’t consider the money savings the Marlins will have without him here. I don’t know how well the Marlins would spend that money or whether the team will be pocketing the savings. This, of course, is strictly speaking for 2011. I have Uggla’s performance projected at around 3.5 wins, and we’d be paying Uggla less than his free agent value (though more than what the Marlins like to pay free agents, I suppose).

      Can we make up for him? I don’t know. Ozzie Martinez isn’t ready for the majors yet, I don’t think. He’s been quite a surprise in the minors, but this was his first season in which he’s really put it together, particularly with regards to that walk rate. I’d like to see him repeat that performance in his age 23 season in Triple-A before we give him the job, but I’m feeling a little better about our middle infield situation. But let’s consider what you might expect from him (projections from CHONE):

      -20 (runs) Offense, +1 defense at SS

      Let’s take that +1 defense at SS to be worth +8 at second base. Compare that to the projection I have for Uggla:

      +19 offense, -7 defense

      Uggla would be 24 runs better than Martinez this year, according to this. I could see Martinez being closer to 20 runs better than Uggla on defense, but Uggla is still a good 2 wins better, so for now we would be better off with Uggla. Next year, all bets are off, and we are unlikely to retain him. Having said all that, if the team can spin a trade and find a replacement this season to split time, it could be worth a look.

      As far as Hanley is concerned, I doubt he is severely underperforming his talent level. He had a down year last year, sure, but that’s variance more than anything else. I’d say his relationship with Uggla isn’t as strained as that episode late in 2009 showed.