I’ve taken a look at the last few days’ worth of poll results from the the various Uggla options, and it seems two of the four choices given were the clearly most desirable.
Propose and have a five-year extension accepted: 20 (47.6%)
Trade him during the offseason: 16 (38.1%)
Trade him sometime during the season: 2 (4.8%)
Keep him throughout the season, offer him arbitration and receive the draft pick compensation from him signing elsewhere: 4 (9.5%)
The majority of the readers were interested in getting the most future value out of Uggla, whether it was via an extension or increased value from an immediate trade. It’s interesting to see that only a few of you were interested in holding Uggla for a part of this upcoming 2011 season. There is an extremely good chance that the Marlins would be better off in 2011 with Uggla in the lineup, given that the return from another team for Uggla would involve more prospects than players who can provide now. Any trade involving Uggla would bring in more youth whom the Marlins will have for many team-control years. With Uggla’s remaining trade value, any players who would be ready to contribute now would already have somewhat hefty salaries and thus be of no interest to the team.
Have we conceded that this upcoming season will not be a competitive one? I doubt that, since it’s so early in the offseason. It is clear, however, that the readers here at Marlin Maniac want to ensure value beyond this season more than they want to maximize 2011 value. In that respect, I’m happy that we are looking more long-term rather than short-term, but I think there is definitely some value in having Uggla stay in a Marlins uniform for the rest of this year.
To me, the decision is down to trading Uggla at this point or allow him to walk in free agency. The Marlins have done this twice before, in the 2004 and 2005 offseasons with Carl Pavano and A.J. Burnett. In 2004, with the Marlins tightly involved in the Wild Card race, there was not much discussion in dealing Pavano near the trade deadline. Burnett, on the other hand, was heavily discussed in trade talks, though the reason had just as much to do with his attitude as his contract status. Uggla does not seem to have a problem with the organization (he said he wants to remain a Fish, after all), so the Marlins won’t be inclined to “get rid of a distraction” with him. And as we hold onto him longer into the season, the potential for two decent draft picks sounds a bit more enticing than the more seasoned but lower upside return that we would receive in a trade. So if the Fish are going to start the year with Uggla, I think the best call would be to finish the year with him, barring an overpay at the trade deadline.
A trade at this juncture would leave the Marlins in a bit of a pickle position-wise heading into 2011. We would save $10M in our budget, likely allowing us to hold onto someone like Leo Nunez, but we would also have a gap at second base that would need to be filled. Initially, I thought Chris Coghlan was the heir apparent there, and he might still be (that depends on Matt Dominguez’ development in Triple-A this year) but right now Coghlan is slated to man third base for the first time since college. The names in the free agent market aren’t the most impressive in the world, but the Marlins could use some of those savings snagging someone like Orlando Hudson on a low-risk offer, if the prices on middle infielders remain as depressed as they have been the last few years. Yes, keeping Nunez may end up being a good thing, but would it worth saving the rest or getting a “known” bullpen pitcher at the loss of Uggla? I’m not sure that it would.
One other factor that might have played into this decision was the ability of the Marlins to extract good value from their drafts. Uggla’s name does seem like a hot commodity, and he is coming off a season he is unlikely to repeat, which is the best scenario the Marlins could have hoped for given Uggla’s contract status. Maybe this buzz around Uggla can entice a better deal than we really deserve, therefore being more worthwhile to us than to hold the picks. Combine that with some distrust of this organization’s draft process, and you can justify an immediate trade.
Ultimately, my choice would be to hold onto him unless we get an excellent deal. I don’t think the package that would come back from an Uggla trade would be good enough, but I do not trust the process the Marlins use in drafting, so I’m torn. The team should definitely be actively looking to make a move right now, but if the season starts, I think the Marlins may be best served taking the draft picks at the end.