Nats fans have seen quite a bit of Uggla over the last handful of years while he was with the Braves. And most of it hasn’t been great.
They saw him go from a Silver Slugger 2010 campaign with the Marlins in which he hit .287 with an .877 OPS and 33 homers, to a 2011 season with the Braves in which he still slugged 36 home runs but posted a batting average of .233 and an OPS that was more than 100 points lower than the year prior.
They saw him then hit just .220 with a .732 OPS in 2012, then watched that OPS drop to .671 in 2013, with his strikeout total climbing to 171.
In 2014, Nats fans saw the Braves bench Uggla after continued struggles, then saw Atlanta release the veteran second baseman after he hit .162 with a .472 OPS in 48 games. Uggla then got a second chance with the Giants when San Francisco was desperately needing to find a second baseman. And he didn’t fare well, going hitless in 11 at-bats for the eventual World Series champs before again being released.
Nats fans have seen poor defensive play from Uggla, who was always known as more of a hitter than a smooth fielder.
But here’s the thing, and it’s a factor that many fans either are unaware of or just chose to ignore after this move was announced yesterday - the Nationals have guaranteed Uggla absolutely nothing, and he’ll have to earn his way on to the big league roster.
Uggla is already making $13.2 million in 2015 - money that the Braves still owe him in the final year of the atrocious five-year, $62 million extension he signed with them in 2011. He doesn’t need money, and the Nats certainly haven’t guaranteed him a big chunk of it in this minor league contract.
They also haven’t guaranteed him the starting second base job, or even a roster spot. Uggla will get a locker in spring training, a jersey, and a chance to resurrect his career. That’s all. The rest is on him.
If he doesn’t perform well in spring, or shows that he doesn’t have enough left in the tank, the Nats will cut him loose. No harm, no foul. They will have paid him a bit of meal money and given him a chance. But they won’t have lost much else.
If Uggla responds well to a new hitting coach and shows that he still has pop in his bat and can reach base at a more consistent clip than in the previous few years, then great. The Nats can find a spot for him, if they’d like, either as a bench option or as someone who can play second base on a more regular basis.
This is a no-risk deal. It’s a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training.
Nats fans can hate the signing if they’d like to. You’re certainly entitled.
But don’t hate the signing because you feel that Uggla will be handed the starting second base job or because he’s getting money that could’ve gone in another direction to help benefit the ballclub. That just isn’t happening.