I keep going back and forth on the Atlanta Braves decision to extend Dan Uggla for five years, but the pervasive thought throughout has been that this is an overreaction on the part of the Braves. It's an overreaction of the desire to have a right-handed power hitter -- a quest that General Manager Frank Wren has been on for several years. It's an overreaction in length of contract before a player has had a chance to put on the uniform of the team that he will likely spend the rest of his career with. It's an overreaction to compete with what the rest of the division has been doing this off-season -- signing big-name players to bigger and bigger deals.
And so the Braves had to break a record of their own, signing a second baseman (and not even a good defensive second baseman) to the highest annual salary ever for that position. They handed out the largest and longest contract they've ever given to a player who did not come up through their own farm system. And now they are stuck with him for better or worse for the next half-decade.
This move smacks of the Braves' moves in the off-season two years ago, when their biggest admitted need was starting pitching. So they overpaid for Derek Lowe -- who has given them maybe three good months of pitching in two years -- and they took a gamble on Kenshin Kawakami -- a mistake they're still trying to pawn off on another team. This year the need is and has been right-handed power. They made a brilliant move to bring Uggla to Atlanta, but now they're immediately turning him into (and paying him like) their franchise player. They'll be paying him as much as Chipper Jones next year, and they'll keep paying him for years to come.
The Braves are usually a team that makes smart investments in players. But their last few investments just don't seem to be that wise. I could have gotten behind a three-year contract for Uggla. I might have even gotten behind a three-year deal that includes some sort of vesting options, but five guaranteed years? For a team like the Braves that isn't made of money, that's a lot to invest in a player who will turn 31 in spring training.
Much like the Lowe deal, it certainly seems like the Braves were bidding against themselves in these Uggla "negotiations." The Braves offered Lowe way more per year and for a year longer than any other team. The Braves seemed to have gone at least a year longer and paid a bit more than they needed to for the Uggla deal. From the player's perspective, Dan Uggla got everything he was asking for. He left nothing on the table, and the Braves got jobbed.
Look, this might turn out to be a great deal for a few years, but when a hobbled error-prone diminutive second baseman is wearing out his presence in Atlanta at age 35, it will not be any comfort to the fans or the organization that he's signed to a guaranteed contract for another year. That's the rub, it's the length of the contract. I'm already dreading the next two guaranteed years with Derek Lowe, not to mention another year of paying Kawakami and Nate McLouth (speaking of overreactions), and now we're adding another long-term dread.
Hopefully I'll be proven wrong, and too frightful. Hopefully. Odds are this we be a good deal for the Braves for a couple of years, then maybe a wash, then it will turn into an albatross of a deal. I would have preferred to have given Uggla more dollars per year for fewer years, but it seems the trend in Major League Baseball is for more dollars per year for more years. Maybe the Braves got a bargain. Hopefully they did, but I doubt it.