UPDATE: Marlins “not confident” about signing Dan Uggla, now talking trade

8 Comments

UPDATE: Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that the Marlins “are not confident” they will sign Dan Uggla and are now fielding trade offers for the second baseman.

According to Frisaro, in addition to the Tigers, the Marlins have received calls from at least two unidentified National League teams. The Marlins have been asking for relief pitching in return for Uggla, but also remain in the market for a catcher.

If Uggla is traded, the Marlins plan to move Chris Coghlan to second base and give top prospect Matt Dominguez a chance at the starting third base job during spring training. Stay tuned.

Friday, 10:01 PM: So much for optimism. Dan Uggla tells the Associated Press that the Marlins have broken off negotiations for a contract extension.

“It has been the Marlins’ choice to stop negotiations,” he said. “My team is still wanting to negotiate. My career has been in Florida, and I want to stay in Florida.”

On Monday, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported that Uggla turned down a four-year, $48 million extension. The slugging second baseman is reportedly holding out for five years, which, frankly, is a lot to give to someone who turns 31 next March and is already known as one of the worst defensive second basemen in the game.

Talks could still re-open at any time, but assuming they don’t, either Uggla will either head back into arbitration for a final time or the Marlins will once again explore a trade.

Should they choose to go the trade route, Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi mention tonight that the Tigers have contacted the Marlins to express their interest. According to the report, the Tigers “are looking everywhere for a power bat.” While they prefer someone who bats from the left side of the plate, Uggla is right-handed.

With Carlos Guillen a major question mark after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in September, the Tigers’ current in-house options at second base consist of Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore, who have a combined 373 plate appearances in the major leagues.

The Braves are not just a baseball team. They’re a real estate company too.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

I’ve taken the Braves to task quite a bit in this space lately. This post and then, later, this post got a lot of attention, both from Braves fans who agree and nod their head and those who disagree and think I’m an overly cynical bad fan or whatever.

I don’t think I’m a bad fan or that I’m cynical. I just look at the facts on the ground and draw conclusions from them. The overarching fact that seems to matter here — separate and apart from any individual move or non-move the Braves front office makes — is that the Braves, as an organization, have interests other than winning baseball games and those interests, in turn, cannot help but impact the Braves’ approach to winning baseball games.

Interests like real estate. As the Cobb Business Journal reported yesterday, the Braves are involved in a complex bond transaction, the details of which bore me, but the upshot of which is that the Braves are building office towers:

The Development Authority of Cobb County signed off on a necessary step for the Braves to get the loan on Tuesday . . . Jonathan Smith, deputy general counsel for the Braves, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the project will span about four acres owned by the Braves. About half the land is being leased by Thyssenkrupp for the R&D tower, which the German conglomerate will own.

The other half will house the office building, which the Braves are building and will own, according to Smith. Half the office building is being leased to Thyssenkrupp, Smith said, and the other half is being leased to other companies, though no tenants have been announced yet.

This is all part of the Battery complex which surrounds SunTrust Park and in which the Braves — through a vehicle called Braves Development Company — have a substantial interest. When you appreciate the magnitude of that development and the sort of revenue the Braves are realizing from it now and will realize in the future, it’s hard not to conclude that the Braves did not get SunTrust Park built for them simply or even primarily to become a more competitive baseball team. They got it built for them so that they can become a real estate development company that happens to have a baseball team as one of its many components.

And don’t think that that the relationship between the development and the ball club is some weak and attenuated thing. Check out the Braves’ org chart, as set forth on MLB.com, with my highlight added:

Whatever the legal relationship is between Braves Development Company and the baseball team, both entities answer to Terry McGuirk, apparently on equal footing based on the titles of the people who run them. As such, when McGuirk says, as he did last week, that he “couldn’t be more optimistic” about the Atlanta Braves, it makes one wonder if he means the baseball team or the overall venture, only one part of which is concerned with baseball. Indeed, one of his answers to the question about why all the increased revenues aren’t being plowed into the team was “it costs a lot to build this edifice.” That answer was likely more literal than most people understood.

Sure, the Braves want to win — I truly believe them when they say they want to — but achieving that desire is far less critical to the Braves, financially speaking, than it would be if they did not have office towers to build, own and lease out with favorable tax treatment and other governmental assistance. The hit from missing the playoffs, for example, is a drop in the bucket compared to what it might’ve been back when they played in Turner Field or Fulton County Stadium. At the same time, money that is realized by the Braves, their real estate ventures, or both, can be used in any number of ways. Maybe the baseball team is the priority sometimes. Maybe it’s not.

Observing that does not make one cynical. The Braves are a baseball team with real estate interests. Or maybe they’re a real estate company with baseball interests. The proper way to characterize that depends on a lot of stuff about their financials and their priorities the Braves are likely unwilling to share with us, but it’s a simple fact that they have priorities that have little if anything to do with baseball. It’s fair game, then, to question the organization’s priorities when scrutinizing the baseball decisions they make.