Dan Uggla was basically traded to the Atlanta Braves for scraps today, and the questionable competence of the Florida front office isn’t even the scariest part.
To me, it’s what this says about the trade market — specifically when it comes to Prince Fielder.
Both Fielder and Uggla are very good bats, perhaps even among the best at their positions. However, trade value for both was down because they’re not great defenders, they’re entering their final year before free agency, and they’ve rejected extension offers in the past. Nobody was expecting the Marlins to get a haul for Uggla, but you would think he’d net more than a utility infielder and a relief pitcher.
So why is this a problem when it comes to Fielder? Because as similar as they are, Uggla may just be more valuable than Fielder this winter — meaning Fielder could get even less if the Brewers were to trade him.
On the field, the production has been remarkably similar. Take a look at their Wins Above Replacement (measured by Fangraphs) year-to-year since 2006, the year Uggla broke into the majors and Fielder played his first full season:
2006 Uggla 4.0 / Fielder 1.3
2007 Uggla 2.4 / Fielder 5.3
2008 Uggla 4.5 / Fielder 2.7
2009 Uggla 2.8 / Fielder 6.9
2010 Uggla 5.1 / Fielder 4.1
Over the past five seasons, Uggla’s compiled a total WAR of 18.9. Over those same five years, Fielder totals 20.2 WAR. What about Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, which uses Total Zone for defense instead of UZR?
2006 Uggla 3.5 / Fielder -0.5
2007 Uggla 1.5 / Fielder 3.8
2008 Uggla 4.1 / Fielder 2.1
2009 Uggla 2.3 / Fielder 6.4
2010 Uggla 3.7 / Fielder 3.8
Uggla ends up with a career WAR of 14.9. Fielder ends up with a (full-season) career WAR of 15.6.
Statistically, Fielder’s proven to be slightly more valuable over the past 5 years. Unfortunately for the Brewers, though, on-field production isn’t the only thing coming into play when it comes to Fielder’s trade value.
Uggla may not exactly hold up defensively moving forward, but he at least has the option of moving to third or first in the future. Fielder is already bad, and the perception is that his weight will become a problem as he gets older (note that I’m not saying this should hurt his value, just that the perception is there). The market also happens to be stacked with slugging first basemen — Adrian Gonzalez is likely to be traded, Albert Pujols will be in the same free agent class if no deal is struck, and teams looking for a fix via free agency have the likes of Derrek Lee and Aubrey Huff to fall back on.
Uggla had no such competition in the market, which makes the subpar return all the more puzzling. It’s entirely possible that the Marlins just aimed low and this isn’t a sign of things to come, but even if that’s the case, it still potentially sets the market. A lot of people thought Fielder would be gone this past July, but it seemed like the seller’s market scared Doug Melvin off and convinced him to wait a bit longer. Unfortunately, if the first few weeks of this offseason are any indication, it’s even more of a seller’s market than it was in July.
I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about this over the next couple months, but for now, I’ll just leave it at this — if the best the Brewers can expect in return for Fielder is the return the Marlins got for Uggla, I’ll just take the compensation picks, thanks. No wonder Melvin came out the other day and said he wasn’t shopping Fielder.