San Francisco Giants hope to breathe new life into Dan Uggla
By Matthew Lottice
The Giants hope Dan Uggla can reclaim his old form at Triple-A Fresno and help them at second base.
Dan Uggla was given a boatload of money from the Atlanta Braves after making a name for himself as a Florida Marlin. He’s owed $13 million for another two seasons and won’t hit free agency until 2016. However, the Braves, like the San Francisco Giants, weren’t getting any production from their second baseman. The Giants are hoping one team’s ill-fated acquisition becomes a diamond in the rough.
Uggla agreed to a minor league deal with San Francisco and will receive at bats for Triple-A Fresno. It’s a minimal risk ploy by the Giants front office and they stand to basically lose nothing even if Uggla cannot make an impact that warrants a call to the big club.
Joe Panik sprained his ankle Tuesday night running out a groundball to first, which makes the timing fortuitous. Couple that with Marco Scutaro, Ehire Adrianza, Brandon Hicks, Joaquin Arias, and second base has been floundering practically all season.
The three-time All Star has morphed into Brandon Hicks except with a successful big league resume attached to his past.
Uggla didn’t wear an MLB uniform when Arizona drafted him in 2001. He got his chance in 2006 after the Marlins took him in the Rule 5 draft, which mandates players selected remain on a 25-man big league roster for a whole season. He was 26 years old.
That isn’t old, but he certainly battled and paid his dues for a chance as opposed to being an immediate 20-year-old call up.
Uggla didn’t just have one of those routine MLB debuts followed by teams having enough info on him to slow him down. It lasted a full season. In 2006 he batted .282, blasted 27 home runs, and drove in 90 RBI. He made the N.L. All Star team. For the most part that is what the Florida Marlins got at second base from 2006 to 2010.
He never hit .300, but didn’t need to since he mashed 30 plus home runs four seasons in a row. He routinely drove in 90-100 RBI and the lowest number of games he played was 146.
The strikeouts were always there. He’s never lead the National League in punchouts, but from 2007-2013 Uggla has finished in the top 10 with his lowest total being 149. He took his walks too, furthering his enigmatic presence in the box. Uggla has walked over 90 times twice in a season and lead the N.L. in 2012 with 94.
His stock couldn’t get any higher after the 2010 season. He didn’t make the All Star team, but received MVP votes and won a Silver Slugger award. Uggla got his $62 million contract from the Braves and that’s when it started going south for him.
The Kentucky native smacked a career high 36 home runs in 2011, but as the strikeout totals remained at their high average, the hit totals began to dip. Had it not been for a 33 game hitting streak, Uggla wouldn’t have finished with a .233 average.
He finished with 140 total hits, which fell to 115 in 2012 and then 80 in 2013. The power was still there, but not enough to the point where it demanded he play everyday. With his confidence shot after 2013, the Braves made him the starting second baseman heading into Spring Training, but Uggla couldn’t turn it around.
Uggla had corrective eye laser surgery last offseason, but it didn’t help lower his strikeout totals. It’s evident how much Atlanta lost confidence in him to release him outright and pay him $13 million to move on.
He struck out 495 times in 451 games from 2011 to 2013, which the Braves would have taken had he maintained his regular 150-160 hit totals.
Elliott Johnson replaced him on the Atlanta playoff roster last season. A move similar to Barry Zito’s playoff absence in 2010. In his fourth season as a Brave, Uggla hit .162 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 48 games.
Who knows what happened to Dan Uggla, or at least the version of him in a Marlins uniform. He was durable, powerful, and one of the most productive offensive second baseman for a time.
His fielding wasn’t on par with Frank White, Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, or Brandon Phillips. And he wasn’t the contact hitter any of those guys were either.
Perhaps a change of scenery and a new organization will behoove Uggla and his swing. At 34 years old he isn’t exactly over-the-hill, but his bat not his body, has suggested he very well could be.
I always liked watching him play. He’s listed at 5-11, which is doubtful, but I have no problem buying he’s all of 210 lbs. Draw from that what you will (PEDs?), including his tight sleeved shirts to unveil some disproportionate arm muscles for his body type.
Maybe he’s Bret Boone in Seattle all over again. He’s certainly not the complete second baseman of his day like Dustin Pedroia, Robsinson Cano, Chase Utley, or Brandon Phillips. But at his peak he launched more home runs and was more healthy than any of those prior names.
Uggla won’t remind anyone of Robby Thompson in the field, but if he can retain any kind of semblance from what he was, a poor man’s Jeff Kent at second base would suit the Giants just fine for the remainder of 2014.