Is Acquiring Uggla Feasible?

Ever since Thrylos started mentioning that the Twins were in talks to acquire Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins, two common responses have appeared:

1. Thrylos needs to stop claiming this rumor is true, or at the very least start reporting his sources.

2. The Twins do not want Uggla because of his poor defense.

I cannot help with the first one (unless I stop reporting rumors generated by him) but I can certainly offer reasons as to why the second is not as serious as we claim.

a. The Twins have employed poor defensive infielders in the past.

These are the recent infield options that the Twins have thrown out at third base in recent seasons, with their UZR from their careers and their seasons with the Twins to illustrate their lack of defensive prowess.

Player UZR w/ Twins Career UZR at 3B
Tony Batista -5.0 -26.6
Mike Lamb -5.0 -8.7
Michael Cuddyer -11.5 -11.5

Note: I’ve always been a little annoyed when people complain about the Mike Lamb signing. Yes, he didn’t turn out as good as we had hoped. In hindsight, it was a bad decision. But when Lamb first signed, it was great. He had done well as a part-time player, and the Twins were hoping that they had made a steal with him. In a full season, his part-time stats could have been projected to about 25 HR a season. Yet, for some reason, he just didn’t hit. The main reasons were a batting average on balls in play that was almost 40 points below his career average, an increased infield fly percentage, and the evaporation of power and walks.

However, we need to remember that on Bill James’ defensive spectrum, 3B is regarded as an easier position to play that 2B,* so it’s not too fair to be comparing these three guys to Uggla, who has played 2B for his entire career. There have been some rumors that if a team does acquire Uggla, they will move him over to 3B so his defense doesn’t negatively affect the team as much. The Twins may be one of these teams, but I do not know for sure.

* The defensive spectrum is, from easiest to hardest: 1B, LF, RF, 3B, CF, 2B, SS, C

Also, remember that Cuddyer has played a little 2B in his career (61 games) in which his UZR was right around average. Could he sustain that full-time? Probably not. But my point is that having Cuddy play 2B for a third of a season has shown that the Twins do not always feel that they have to throw out Nick Punto or one of his light-hitting, speedy, hustling clones at the position. Cuddy is 6’2″, 215 lbs. Uggla is 5’11”, 215. Punto is 5’9″, 190. Maybe the Twins are serious about Uggla.

b. Is Uggla’s defense really as bad as we claim?

Here’s the season and career UZR for Dan Uggla.

Season: 6.9, -9.3, 1.6, -10.1
Career: -10.8

So it appears that Uggla is a poor defensive 2B. But at the end of 2008, he would have been only a -0.7 defender, which is basically average. Writers for FanGraphs regularly mention that it takes several seasons of data before UZR becomes a reliable indicator for defense, so it’s possible that the -10.1 is an outlier, but that’s difficult to argue when there’s a -9.3 just two seasons prior. Uggla probably is as bad as we think, but we can’t guarantee that he’s as below average as a -10.8 would say.

Honestly, I think Dan Uggla is a real possibility for the Twins. The front office might overlook his suspect defense and see his good power numbers and walk rates, but if they don’t trade for Uggla, I think that it will be due to how expensive he would be for 2010 in addition to his defensive issues.

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3 Responses to “Is Acquiring Uggla Feasible?”

  1. Josh Says:

    I still don’t see a fit. However, the Marlins want to cut bait and you really haven’t heard too many teams other than the Giants interested in him. I like the OBP and you could slide in between Mauer and Morneau.

    • Andrew Says:

      Uggla’s OBP and power would definitely be helpful to the team, unlike his defense and contract. If the Twins did get him, I’d see him fitting in behind Kubel/Cuddyer though. He doesn’t fit Gardy’s recent mold of what defines a #2 hitter.

  2. Josh Says:

    I was moreso thinking that Gardy would perhaps ditch the “weak middle infielder who can bunt” strategy and slot in Mauer in the 2-hole, so a…

    Span
    Mauer
    Uggla
    Morneau
    Cuddyer
    Kubel
    Hardy
    Young
    Punto

    Now looking at it though… it would probably make more sense to flop him and Cuddy, since he has a higher avg. and less strike outs.

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