The Nationals have expressed interest in Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, a baseball source confirmed on Monday to MLB.com. FOXsports.com was the first to report that Uggla was on Washington’s radar.
If the Marlins trade Uggla, they want pitching and a catcher in return. In the past, teams have inquired about right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, but Washington seems unwilling to part with the right-hander. By 2012, Zimmermann and right-hander Stephen Strasburg are expected to be on the front end of Washington’s rotation. Strasburg is recovering from elbow reconstruction and is expected to miss most of the 2011 season.
The Nationals have catching depth which includes Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores and Derek Norris. Manager Jim Riggleman said at the end of the 2010 season that Rodriguez and Ramos would platoon behind the plate to start next season, while Ramos would take over the No. 1 spot after the All-Star break.
The Nationals have some interest in us, but should we be interested in the Nationals as a trading partner? After all, trading within your own division is a stereotypical no-no, and I’m sure it would break the hearts of many fans to see Uggla 18 times a year playing against us. It would certainly be unpleasant for me, as I’m one of the biggest Uggla fans in the business.
But my allegiance is with this organization and its laundry before it is with any players, I suppose, so I have to think of what is best for the team. And honestly, the Nationals have some interesting pieces that we should keep an eye on. While their package may not be ideal, the Marlins have to be intrigued by the depth of their catching corps, which includes one old favorite name, one top prospect we won’t get our hands on, and two guys in between who could become Marlins as part of a Dan Uggla trade. Let’s take a look at these names.
Pudge is quite the recognizable name among the Marlin faithful, or at least the ones who have been around since 2003. He famously signed a one-year deal with the Fish in ’03 and, in that lone season, helped the team win its second World Series in five years. He went on to sign with the Detroit Tigers, which was a bit of a shame, as the Marlins did attempt to resign him. Nevertheless, he mentioned before that he was fond of his time with Florida and might be interested in returning.
Unfortunately for Pudge, the Marlins shouldn’t be all that interested in bringing him in, especially in an Uggla trade. Once upon a time, Rodriguez was a good player, and that did include his time with the Fish. But now he is just a shell of his former self; in the past three seasons, he’s only cracked a .300 wOBA once and has lost any semblance of power that he previously had. He may still be a decent defensive catcher and probably a good game-caller, but those factors would not overshadow the tremendous hole he opens up with his offense. Last year, he was worth just 1.0 fWAR, and I’d be willing to bet he would be worse this year. While he’d be likely to be worth the $3M he is owed next year, that figure would not be enjoyable to pay or acquire via trade.
Norris is the catcher of the future for the Nats, rated as the 38th best player before the 2010 season by Baseball America. However, Norris struggled with his power in High-A and is not particularly ready to go to the majors right now. He is not only highly valued by the Nats, but also would not be ready to play in the majors for at least another year or two, so the Marlins should only be asking about him and not banking on acquiring him.
Flores is an interesting name because of his major league career so far. He had a couple of acceptable but unimpressive seasons with the Nats before having a surprising first 100 PA in 2009. In 106 PA, Flores hit .301/.375/.505, including four home runs and a 10.6% BB%. Of course, that was 100 PA, there’s no great reason to think that was anything more than a random hot streak. However, Flores is still pretty young (he’ll be 26 next season) and, while he is in his second year of Super Two arbitration, he isn’t slated to make more than $1M this year. Supposedly he is healthy this year after missing essentially two straight seasons with injury. That helps us in that it both allows him to start this season and also potentially lowers his value to the Nationals.
CHONE’s projections, updated through August, projected Flores as a 2-WAR catcher through 500 PA, with an acceptable slash line of .260/.321/.417 (-6 runs per season approximately). Chances are the Marlins would try him for 400-500 PA, putting him at about 1.5 WAR for the season. If all goes well and he plays at that level for two seasons, the Marlins could get $12.8M in bonus (pretty surprising, huh?). I would say a deal with Flores and a low minors pitcher or two with some promise would get the deal done.
Ramos was acquired in a deal that sent Matt Capps over to the Minnesota Twins. This was pretty odd, considering Ramos was highly ranked (between 2nd-5th) within the Twins organization before the 2010 season. However, Ramos’ year in Triple-A was disastrous, as he batted just .241/.280/.345 (.279 wOBA). He was still solid defensively, and his brief stint in the majors turned out all right (.278/.301/.405, .312 wOBA), so there is still something in his prospect value. Before the season, John Sickels had him rated as a B+ prospect, while Baseball America ranked him as the 58th best prospect in the minors. After this season, he is likely to lose some luster, but if he remains close to the top 100, a value of $12.1M surplus wouldn’t be out of the question.
Such a value would be good, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Based on who Ramos was initially traded for, you have to expect that his value has dropped significantly as a result of his poor season. Could the Marlins extract more than just Ramos? He would probably start the year in Triple-A anyway before being given a major-league call, so he wouldn’t be a “starter-caliber” player just yet. The Nationals farm system isn’t terribly deep, but there are some interesting top names. Could the Marlins, for example, extract Drew Storen along with Ramos if they added some help? I don’t think so, but it’s worth asking. I believe that, if the Marlins were to go with Ramos as the highlight of a package, they would be able to get some more assistance, maybe even someone who can help at the big league level right now and would still be under team control.
Catchers the key
Once again, the key to an Uggla trade may indeed be a catcher. The Nats have two interesting names who could be heading our way and would become major league contributors soon. Would Marlins fans be happy with a return headlined by low minors pitching prospects and either Flores or Ramos, or would fans be more intrigued by a more ambitious package headlined by Drew Storen that ends up with catching as a secondary return? I’d love to hear your thoughts.