The quest for a second base upgrade has officially begun in San Francisco, although cynics might consider the Giants’ latest attempt to improve the position a reach, at best. The Giants inked former Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla to a minor league contract this morning, with the intention of giving him a trial at AAA Fresno to determine if there is any chance that the beleaguered infielder can benefit from a change of scenery.
Uggla began the season as Atlanta’s starting second baseman, but was railroaded out of town after hitting just .162/.241/.231, with a piddling two home runs and 40 strikeouts in 145 plate appearances. A two-time All-Star and former Silver Slugger, Uggla made his mark with the then-Florida Marlins by averaging 31 home runs per year from 2006 to 2010, making him an elite power hitter at his position. The Giants are taking a flier on him in the hopes that he will rediscover that dormant power swing. Skeptics might complain that he’s basically Brandon Hicks without the defense, but the Giants have received such poor production from second base, and Uggla comes so cheap (the Braves are picking up the remaining $19 million on his contract), that it’s hard to argue that it isn’t worth a look at Uggla on the chance the Giants could capture a Pat Burrell 2010-ish renaissance.
Uggla was in the middle of a five-year, $62 million contract handed to him by the Braves before the 2011 season. After hitting 36 home runs in his first year with the Braves, Uggla almost immediately turned into one of the most notorious albatrosses in all of baseball. Seemingly overnight, Uggla not only stopped hitting for big time power, but also lost the ability to make contact. From 2012 to his last day as a Brave this season, Uggla hit just .196/.320/.357. In 2013, Uggla struggled so much that the Braves completely lost their patience and didn’t include him on the playoff roster in their Division Series matchup against the Dodgers. With rookie Tommy LaStella banging on the door and Uggla still not hitting this year, the Braves finally had enough and gave Uggla his walking papers.
To say the Giants are wild-eyed optimists in hoping for a bounceback from Uggla would be a gross understatement. Put bluntly, Uggla has been a terrible hitter for three years now, and even on his best day he’s a below-average fielder. However, as has been detailed by myriad scribes in myriad publications, second base has been a nightmare for the Giants this season. The Giants are basically getting Uggla for free, so giving him a week-long tryout at AAA to see if he can even do anything in Pacific Coast League bandboxes is at least worth the look, on the off chance the Giants could find a productive second baseman without having to give up anything of value.