Dan Uggla continues to be terrible and the Braves might be ready to bench him again

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Atlanta left Dan Uggla off the postseason roster in favor of light-hitting utility man Elliot Johnson and now it sounds like the Braves may be close to benching Uggla again.

He’s hit just .190 with 30 strikeouts in 27 games, ruining any notion that eye surgery could fix his rapid decline, and Mark Bowman of MLB.com speculates that prospect Tommy La Stella “might soon be promoted” from Triple-A to replace Uggla at second base.

Uggla is still owed more than $20 million, but that money is a sunk cost at this point and it doesn’t help the Braves to keep trotting him out there solely to avoid eating the rest of the contract. Bowman notes that Uggla has hit .186 with a .657 OPS in 265 games dating back to mid-2012.

La Stella is hardly considered an elite prospect and he’s got a measly .333 slugging percentage at Triple-A as a 25-year-old, but he also has a .372 on-base percentage with more walks than strikeouts and has gotten on base at a fantastic .408 clip for his career. La Stella and Uggla are about as different as two hitters can be in terms of their approach and skill set, and it’d be tough to blame for Braves for wanting to try the other extreme after watching Uggla flail away for the past few seasons.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.