What if Uggla stays?


During this time in the offseason, baseball fans get very little to cheer or get excited about. That’s why we refresh MLB Trade Rumors every ten minutes, just to see if something is happening, to know if we’re even alive. Here at Marlin Maniac, we’re/I’m no different. I’ve got MLBTR on my window as we speak, looking to refresh it. And I’m also at a loss for words in terms of Marlins topics for the week.

One thing I did find interesting is something mentioned by Maniac reader Moti recently.

"Is there any chance we can actually keep Uggla? It would be dumb, but what if the possible return is horrible? Are we not better off with Uggla and trading Cantu?"

This is a question I think most fans have in their mind right now. Uggla poses an interesting conundrum for the Marlins because, while he is probably the second best position player on the team, he holds very little in the way of surplus value despite being in arbitration. I think it’s rare to see a good player actually get so close to market value in arbitration that he loses his trade value.

So, back to the question at hand. What happens if the Marlins keep Uggla? Let’s explore.The value aspect

The primary thing most of us are worried about when it comes to Uggla is his trade value. Uggla is scheduled to make in the $14 – $15M range in 2011, and while that is the market value for his performance (more or less), the Marlins simply cannot afford to pay the market rate. By trading him now, the team passes on the surplus value of his 2010 season off to the next team, in return for some players who might be useful this year or down the line.

If we hold onto him, it’s an entirely different story. Here’s what Joe Capozzi wrote on his Palm Beach Post blog on that very issue:

"It’s been no secret that the Marlins have been having a tough time at the winter meetings trading Uggla. One solution could be for Florida to at least open the 2010 season with Uggla at second base, then trade him in June or July.That way the Marlins would be only be on the hook for a portion of his contract, which could hit $8 million after arbitration this winter."

But it is not as simple as Capozzi writes it to be. Right now, I have Uggla at $6.3M in surplus value. Almost all of that value is derived from a full 2010 season. If we were to wait until midseason to trade Daniel, we’d be trading him at around $3M in surplus. That’s the difference between a Grade B prospect and a two Grade C prospects, and neither package is what the Marlins are really looking for with Uggla.

The performance aspect

However, while not trading Uggla would be wrong for the future, it is most certainly right for the present. Keeping Uggla makes it so that the team has its core of solid offensive players from last season. If Uggla is a 3.5 WAR player like the Fans and I think he is, then sending him off would be a huge loss to the productivity of the team. I’ve been clamoring for an Uggla deal to be made, followed by the Marlins moving Chris Coghlan into the infield and signing a lefty outfield bat to platoon with Brett Carroll. I believe this would be the best use of our resources. However, I doubt that the team has the wherewithal to come up with this idea, in part because they seem so reluctant to move Coghlan into the infield, where he is presumably below average.

However, if Uggla stays, none of these moves have to be made for the team to be effective. I do not think Coghlan will stick as a .370 wOBA hitter, but if he improves in left field (almost a certainty given his athletic build and speed), he might not even have to maintain the offense he had last season. A .350 wOBA Coghlan who plays at -5 run defense in left field is a little better than an average player in 150 games and 700 PA as a leadoff man. Temper that down a bit (Coghlan won’t play everyday) and he could be a 2 WAR player with a modest drop in wOBA and a modest increase in defense. Even if Coghlan is a 1.5 WAR player (no defensive improvement), the combination of the him and Uggla at 5 WAR would be about the same as what the Marlins would get from a lefty/Carroll platoon and Coghlan at second. And this doesn’t the factor the possibility that the Marlins go with Emilio Bonifacio instead. The WAR drops severely with him in the lineup.

What could be done?

Here’s something the Marlins could try. The Marlins could consider keeping Uggla for the start of 2010, then flipping him at the deadline but covering the cost for the receiving team. That way, the team essentially supplies the surplus value of a full season for half a year of Uggla, thus preserving his trade value and netting us a decent return. In terms of money, of course this move is expensive. But if the Marlins were looking to have him at the beginning of the year, this would be the best way to receive any sort of package in return. Plus, the cost would only be incurred for that season, and you would have received some production from Uggla in return. On the off chance that the team is actually in contention, keeping Uggla and letting him walk non-tendered the following year would still be an option.

Of course, I still prefer a trade. If the Marlins go by my offseason plan of finding a corner outfielder and moving Coghlan to second, I expect the team could see a combined value between left and second of 5 WAR. That plus the value of saving significant money on Uggla’s salary should be worth a lot more to the team than getting a more guaranteed 5.5 WAR and paying Uggla’s $8M next year.

What do you Maniacs think? Would keeping Uggla be all that bad? What if we can deal Jorge Cantu? Would that make retaining Uggla more feasible, even if it doesn’t change Uggla’s trade value? Would we be happy as a fan base if we got nothing for Uggla after 2010? Let me hear your thoughts.