Why are the Braves moving Martin Prado to left field instead of Dan Uggla?

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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.

The Marlins made an empty threat. Giancarlo Stanton made an empty promise.

Associated Press
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I covered the main press conference about Giancarlo Stanton earlier, but afterward he and his agents fanned out to various TV shows, radio shows and reporter scrums from which some new, fun things have spun out. Part of what they’ve talked about is silly and meaningless, part of it just meaningless.

Here’s the silly and meaningless, from a Marlins official, apparently, trying to bully Stanton into accepting either the Giants or the Cardinals trades despite the fact that he told them beforehand that he was not willing to go to either of those teams:

This is silly because it comes off like a threat. Like the worst possible thing that can happen to a guy is to stay with the very team that is making the threat. It’s like telling your wife that if she does not leave you, she’s stuck with you forever.

It’s meaningless too, in that Stanton has an opt-out clause after 2020. If the Marlins could not make a trade Stanton would approve, he’d simply collect close to $90 million and then leave at age 30. Oooh, don’t throw me into that briar patch, Mr. Jeter!

Not that Stanton’s people are offering statements of serious gravitas. His agent was asked about Stanton’s opt-out rights, which he retains even though he’s now with the Yankees:

That may very well be true! He just got here and everything is going great so far. It’s totally empty, of course, because anything can happen between now and the fall of 2020. If the big time free agents of the next two years sign for the sort of money that makes Stanton look underpaid, he’ll certainly opt-out, even if he wants to stay with the Yankees. Ask Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia how that works. The opt-out clause is pure, unadulterated leverage for a player and unless he totally craters over the next three seasons he’ll most certainly use it, regardless of present desires.

Which, hey, that’s how things work when a big trade or free agent signing happens. Everyone who has lost looks bad and everyone who won sounds happy. Then, later, the baseball happens.