Yesterday, I was quite surprised by the trade that sent Dan Uggla to the Braves for utility infielder Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn.
The fact that he was traded isn’t what surprised me. We all knew the writing was on the wall once Uggla turned down a four-year deal worth $48 million dollars from the Marlins last week, but what I couldn’t grasp was how little the Marlins got in return for trading away one of the most popular players in their fan base, and one of the best offensive second baseman in the league.
I read on another Mets blog that Uggla was tough to trade because of his $9 million dollar salary which actually made me chuckle given that he is worth at least double that amount in today’s market.
Of course we all know that the biggest knock on Uggla is his lead-footed approach to playing second base, but is that enough to completely devalue a premier slugger such as Uggla? It’s even more baffling when you consider he gives you all that offense from second base, where power like his is too rare a commodity.
From a Mets perspective, it really is a sobering dose of reality for those among us who would expect to get a big haul for the likes of Jose Reyes who will earn $11MM next season, and Carlos Beltran who is slated for $18MM. That’s not to say that either of them will be traded, but come on, we all read the same rumors.
Currently, I’d place Dan Uggla’s place in this game on an equal par as that of Jeff Kent in his prime, when he was the premier second baseman in baseball. There’s those two, and then there’s everybody else.
Uggla’s first five years of production is staggering to say the least. Observe for yourselves:
Through age 30, Dan Uggla has already accumulated 154 home runs, and at the same age Jeff Kent had collected 138 home runs. Of course Kent would go on to hit over 200 more bombs but given their close proximity as sluggers, Uggla stacks up well so far.
Getting back to defense, UZR tells us that Jeff Kent was just as bad defensively as Uggla is at second base. Uggla has accumulated a -22.0 UZR in his last five seasons compared to a -31.1 for Jeff Kent in his last five seasons, and he was only marginally better in his prime.
Could you ever imagine trading Jeff Kent in his prime for what amounts to a utility infielder with a ,319 career OBP and a middle reliever who was drafted in the 33rd round and owns a 1.71 career WHIP?
What this trade shows more than anything else, is how different the landscape is today compared to just a decade ago in terms of trade value for offensive stars.
While trade value for top starting pitching remains as high as ever, this trade shows the great divide between the value of a top slugger versus that of a top pitcher.
If the Mets intend to trade for a top arm this winter, it will cost them a lot more than a Carlos Beltran or a Jose Reyes given their huge salaries, lingering concerns over their health, durability issues, declining offense and defense, and of course both are on their final years of their contracts.
Given all those factors, the best thing the Mets could do is hang on to both of them, hope for solid seasons from both, and then reconsinder the matter around next season’s trade deadline.