Extending Dan Uggla

Written by Thomas on January 6, 2011 – 3:26 pm

When rumors began to surface several weeks ago about a possible five year extension for the newly acquired Dan Uggla, a small but very loud minority of Braves Nation cried foul. To summarize their concerns in one sentence, giving an aging middle infielder with a high strikeout rate and shoddy glove 60 million dollars guaranteed is incredibly risky for a club with the Braves’ financial means. Today over at Talking Chop, Martin Gandy joined the minority and expressed similar concerns comparing the deal to that of Derek Lowe’s. While I obviously agree that Lowe will end up being overpaid for his tenure in a Braves uniform, Uggla at least has a fighting chance to be worth it.

For starters, there is reason to believe that Uggla is a better defender than he is perceived to be. For those of you who are not aware of his home and road UZR splits, the advanced defensive metric shows that Uggla has been much better with the glove away from Miami. In fact, his career road UZR/150 of 1.4 (compared to -10.5 at home) means that he goes from being an atrocious defender at home to a pretty decent one on the road. There are many possible explanations for why this is the case, but regardless of the reason, we are talking about five years of data that shows a significant difference in performance. If it turns out that Uggla really can play solid defense away from Sun Life Stadium, then his biggest flaw will no longer be such a glaring concern.

A strong argument can also be made that Uggla will out produce his career offensive numbers in the first two seasons of his new contract. In his Jumping castles first 1400 big league plate appearances Uggla was nothing more than a glorified hacker. During that stretch, the Marlins’ second bagger struck out about once every four plate appearances while drawing a walk only 8% of the time. Although he still strikes out about 25% of the time, over his last 1900+ plate appearances Uggla has drawn a walk in over 12% of them. Even though he hasn’t improved his ability to make contact, he has at least learned to lay off some of the junk. Because of this, Uggla has posted an OBP of .361 over the course of his last three seasons compared to .332 in his first two seasons. I say he has decent chance to keep this up for the next two seasons, because research shows that a baseball player’s prime typically last about five seasons. However, Bill James states that the typical prime is from ages 26 to 30. Here’s to hoping that Uggla, who didn’t reach the show until age 26 and will soon turn 31, is a late bloomer. If he is and has a “graceful” decline in productivity following his age 32 season, the Braves will not regret extending Uggla.

Of course, I had to work pretty hard to defend this extension and use a lot of big “ifs” towards the end of the third paragraph. There are more underlying concerns about Uggla that I did not address as well. Some would argue that players with his body type are at a higher risk of physical drop off than others, but to be fair, I have no evidence nor have seen any to support such a concern. There is also legitimate reason to believe Uggla, a straight pull hitter, will have trouble maintaining his power numbers at Turner Field which has a much deeper left field gap than his former home. One thing is clear, the Braves took on a pretty big risk by giving Uggla this extension, and I personally would not have given him it to him. However, it shouldn’t be compared the Derek Lowe deal just yet.

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Posted in Roster Moves | 2 Comments »

Chipper, Braves Agree On Contract Extension

Written by Jonathan on March 31, 2009 – 10:12 am

Chipper Jones will now have the opportunity to finish his career as it started, as an Atlanta Brave.  This morning, the Braves announced that they have come to an agreement on a 3-year contract extension for more than $40 million with an option for a fourth year that would take Chipper through 2013.  He will be 41 at that point.

As we expressed earlier in the season, locking up Chipper was an absolute must.  Chipper had also continually expressed that he wouldn’t negotiate a contract during the season, so it’s nice to see the front office get this out of the way.

Chipper has been injured a good bit over the past three seasons, averaging playing in only 124 games, but he has also been productive.  Over those seasons, he has lead the majors batting .342.  Last season, after spending a good bit of the year above the .400 mark, he ended with an impressive .364.  Injured or not, he can still produce.

So rest easy, Braves fans.  We’re not going to lose Chipper too and we can look forward to him finishing out his career here in Atlanta.

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Posted in Roster Moves | 1 Comment »

Francoeur Signs Contract

Written by Jonathan on February 19, 2009 – 9:47 am

Just a day or so before heading to Arizona to have his arbitration hearing, Jeff Francoeur has reached a contract agreement with the Braves.  Now the focus can turn towards Spring Training and bouncing back from the tough season he went through last year, batting only .239 with 11 home runs.  The agreement gives Jeff a base salary of $3.375 million with some small incentives to push the contract a little past $3.4 million.

This is a huge step in the right direction for Francoeur.  I’ve been concerned as the days have passed, and we got closer to the schedule arbitration hearing date, that going to an actual hearing was the last thing that he needed to do for himself, his performance and the team.  Frenchy is no doubt still a little fragile mentally after the tough going he experienced last season, and the process of the arbitration hearing likely would have been damaging to him.  The Braves would have been able to make a strong argument at the hearing for their salary figure, which was $2.8 million, given past performance.  Jeff had requested $3.95 million.

In other contract news, Chipper Jones and the Braves are in the process of negotiating a contract that will keep Chipper in Atlanta for a few more years.  Chipper has always played in Atlanta and only wants to play in Atlanta.  As we discussed earlier on in the offseason, not giving him a new contract to keep him here is not an option.  There are still a lot of details to work through for the soon-to-be 37-year-old third baseman, but at least the front office is making the effort to get talks underway.  Chipper has continued to maintain that he will not discuss a new contract once the season begins.

So the contracts are signed, no one’s headed towards arbitration and we’re one step closer to getting baseball season started for 2009.  Next on the list…..figuring out who is going to fill out the rest of the outfield to give Francoeur a hand.

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Posted in Roster Moves | 7 Comments »

Kelly Johnson Avoids Arbitration

Written by Jonathan on February 18, 2009 – 11:22 am

Kelly Johnson and the Braves avoided arbitration this morning by coming to an agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million contract.  The amount does not include some other performance bonuses that were not disclosed as a part of the contract agreement.  KJ had originally requested $3.3 million and the Braves returned with a $2.35 million figure.  The final contract is a the halfway point between the two.

I’m looking for good numbers out of Kelly this season.  He’s coming off of a career-high season last year, so hopefully he can maintain a similar pace once the season gets underway.  I’d be happy if he maintained last year’s production in most categories.

This leaves Jeff Francoeur as the only unsigned player heading towards arbitration.  Jeff’s figure of $3.95 million was a bit greater than the $2.8 million put out there by the Braves and there has been little progress in coming to an agreement.  Francoeur’s arbitration hearing is set for this Friday and it’s not likely a contract will be decided before then.  It’s a shame that it’s going to get to that point, but let’s hope that things don’t get too ugly.  Coming off of the rough season Francoeur had last year, it’s the last thing the team really needs at this point.

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Posted in Roster Moves | 13 Comments »

No Arbitration For Kotchman

Written by Jonathan on February 1, 2009 – 2:50 am

The Braves and first-baseman Casey Kotchman reached a contract agreement on Saturday to avoid going to arbitration.  They settled on a one-year, $2.885 million contract, which fell roughly in the middle of the figures offered up front by both parties.  The Braves had initially offered $2.475 million and Kotchman had requested $3.25 million.

Kotchman had a rough transition to the Braves last year when he arrived in the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Angels.  He started out in a slump for the first month or so before pulling it together a little bit to close out the season.  His time with the Braves for the season saw a .237 average and .316 slugging percentage with 2 home runs in 43 games.

I’m looking for a little better production out of Kotchman this season, but as always, we make no claims here to have any real backing for the stats we come up with before even seeing the players in preseason.  I’m predicting .285 average, 73 runs scored, 89 RBI and 15 HRs.  Kotchman doesn’t give us the production of a power first-baseman, but adds some potential pop to the bottom portion of the lineup.

With a contract settled for Kotchman, that leaves Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur as the only two remaining arbitration-eligible players for the Braves.  While the Braves are likely to reach an agreement for Kelly Johnson in the upcoming week or two, they realize that there is the chance that Francoeur’s contract may go the whole way to an aribtration hearing.  That hearing is scheduled for February 20th.

What should we expect out of Casey Kotchman this season?  He’s got great potential as a fielder and hopefully he can pick it up a little at the plate and create a little bit of offensive punch for us in the 2009 season.

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Posted in General, Speculation | 8 Comments »

Keeping Chipper In Atlanta

Written by Jonathan on January 25, 2009 – 1:00 am

Chipper Jones is entering the final year of his contract with the Atlanta Braves and has made it clear over the past few days that he, without a doubt, wants to spend the entirety of his career with the club. He was selected by the Braves as the first overall pick in the first-year player draft back in 1990.  This is the only club that Chipper has ever played for and has repeatedly made it known that he has no desire to go elsewhere.

I think there was little question to any fans that there would be any problems with that happening until a couple of weeks ago with the departure of John Smoltz to the Boston Red Sox.  At that point in time, Chipper shared many of the same frustrations as the fans.  It’s taken a little bit of time for the emotions to calm down, but with the help of a few pitching signings, everyone is slowly getting back to the business that is baseball and trying to move on with the offseason.

Though approaching his 37th birthday, Jones is the reigning National League batting champion, batting .364 and slugging .574 in the 2008 season.  Over the past 3 seasons, he has also led all of Major League Baseball with a .342 batting average.  The downside to Chipper’s aging body is his tendency to come down with injuries throughout the season.  In the past season, he has played in an average of 124 games and made a collective five trips to the disabled list.  Despite this, he remains confident that he will remain productive on the field at the age of 40, and as far as I’m concerned, has done nothing to prove otherwise through the past couple of seasons.

Staying in Atlanta has always been the number one priority for Chipper.  In 2006, he agreed to alter his contract and sacrifice up to $15 million in potential earnings for the guarantee that he would be staying in Atlanta at least through the end of the 2008 season.  With his production last season, Chipper’s $11 million option for the 2009 season has vested.  It has never been completely about the money, but rather the chance to remain and play for the fans that have been with him for his entire career.

Though Frank Wren told Chipper last September that he hoped to work out a contract extension as soon as possible, it’s understandable that the focus of the club has been elsewhere this offseason.  With trying to sign new pitching and the potential of adding some power to the lineup, Jones understands that Wren’s primary objectives have been outside of a contract extension.  With the season rapidly approaching though, Chipper’s outlook on the process remains the same.  He has repeatedly said that he would not negotiate a contract mid-season again due to the amount of distraction that it provides from trying to play baseball.  Hopefully the front office and Chipper can get something worked out soon and the focus can shift to the season at hand.

I realize that the Braves may be hesitant to offer Jones an overly extended contract, but Chipper is only looking for a fair-priced, three-year contract from the Braves.  I can’t forsee any reason why he has not earned that respect in the eyes of the front office of the club.  He is truly a face of the Atlanta Braves and it would be the biggest shame to see him part ways and play for another team.  Without a doubt, if the Braves don’t extend and re-sign Chipper’s contract, he would pull huge interest from many other teams who know just how productive he can be despite his age.  Losing Smoltz and Chipper in back-to-back seasons is just not an option for Braves fans.

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Posted in General | 13 Comments »

Bobby’s Sticking Around

Written by Jonathan on May 23, 2008 – 5:31 pm

It looks like Braves fans will get to see Bobby Cox getting ejected through at least the end of the 2009 season.  Today, Frank Wren confirmed that Bobby has been signed to a one-year contract extension.  I have a feeling that Bobby will stay on a year-to-year basis until he’s ready to retire.  At least for now we don’t have to speculate if this is the last year for the winningest manager in Braves franchise history.

Cox has 1,926 wins for the Braves (2,281 total) and is in his 23rd year as the Braves’ skipper.  He had hinted during the offseason that he may consider hanging it up at the end of this season.  I, for one, am very happy to see him sticking around.  Let’s get the boys back to the playoffs, Bobby!

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Posted in General | 5 Comments »

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