Uggla stands on a five-year contract and has two seasons remaining. While the Braves tried their best to hand him off to another team this offseason, they had no takers.
At this point, for another organization to pick up the second baseman, it would probably be a result of injuries, a weak farm system, and the Braves’ desire to pick up some of his hefty contract.
Even with Uggla’s ugly stats, the Braves managed to dominate the National League East this past season. They finished second in the National League, just behind the Dodgers. However, it’s doubtful they will do so in 2014 if Uggla does not improve significantly.
The Braves’ major issue with Uggla is that he batted at .179 in 2013 and is the highest paid player on the team. To put that into perspective, out of the 359 major league players that had 50 or more plate appearances, he stands in 351st place. In the last century, there have only been eight occurrences where a player appeared at the plate 350 or more times and batted below .185. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Uggla is not the only Brave to be a part of that statistic. Braves outfielder B.J. Upton also fits into that small percentage. With that being said, Upton is the second highest paid player on the team (falling right behind Uggla), and competes with Uggla for biggest disappointment of the Braves’ 2013 season.
Uggla unarguably looks hot, raking in $13,146,942 a year, but while he has looks and money going for him, he doesn’t have his bat. In 448 at-bats this past season, he struck out 171 times! This aided in Atlanta having the highest amount of strikeouts in the National League; I’m sure Uggla’s teammates are still thanking him for that.
There is also the option that young Braves player, Tyler Pastornicky, could be taking some of the pressure off of Uggla in 2014. Pastornicky only had 30 at-bats in 2013, but averaged .300 at the plate. If Uggla doesn’t show up for the first part of the 2014 season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of the 24-year-old Pastornicky.
Hitting coach Greg Walker has faith that Uggla will bounce back this season. He claims Uggla is working out on a regular basis and practicing in his at-home cage in the northern Atlanta suburbs. However, most fans snicker at Walker’s confidence in Uggla. My suggestion would be that Uggla share some of his undeserved wealth with Walker for making the coach’s job extra challenging. Even Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez believes in Uggla and has the idea that because Uggla hit 22 home runs in the 2013 season that he still has some sort of talent. In addition, Uggla underwent Lasik eye surgery in August. Atlanta is hopeful that this may improve Uggla’s batting average for the upcoming season.
For the Braves’ sake, hopefully Walker and Gonzalez’s predictions are accurate. If not, another 96-win-season will not be obtainable. Without improvement, the slumping stud won’t even have the women pulling for him this year.