David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Martin Prado had no problem with the Braves’ request that he move to left field following the trade for Dan Uggla.
General manager Frank Wren talked to Prado after making the trade and quoted the All-Star infielder as saying: “I just want to be a part of this team. I want to contribute. I don’t care where I play.”
Prado deserves credit for taking that stance when many other players have scoffed at position switches, but it’s unclear if keeping Uggla at second base and moving Prado to left field makes sense for the Braves in the first place.
Uggla is universally regarded as a poor defensive second baseman whether you trust your eyes, error totals, mainstream perceptions, or advanced defensive metrics. Prado doesn’t fare exceptionally well in advanced defensive metrics either, but he rates better than Uggla and is generally perceived as clearly above average at second base. So why not use Prado at second base and move Uggla to left field?
On paper that seems like a relative no-brainer that would make the Braves’ defense better, but there are a few other factors at play. For one thing Prado has quite a bit more experience as an outfielder, albeit mostly in winter ball. Beyond that it’s possible Uggla would balk at being asked to switch positions one season away from free agency, as his market value as a left fielder could be quite a bit different than as a second baseman.
And last but not least the Braves are planning for 2011 with the idea that they may need to account for Chipper Jones being out of the lineup for long stretches. Prado would be the fill-in for Jones at third base and it’s likely easier to move him back to the infield and plug in another outfielder than it would be to have Uggla shifting back and forth.
Uggla at second base and Prado in left field probably makes the Braves’ defense worse, but deciding where to play them isn’t quite that simple.