The Marlins offered second baseman Dan Uggla a four-year, $48 million extension, according to major league sources.
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Needless to say, the team’s stunned Uggla didn’t accept.
Well, there are reasons. There are always reasons.
Uggla, the only second baseman in history with four 30-homer seasons, has slightly lower rate stats than outfielder Jayson Werth over the past three years, but more home runs, extra-base hits and RBI. Werth, a free agent, almost certainly will command more than four years, $48 million.
A four-year deal for Uggla would amount to a three-year extension on top of his final year of arbitration, making him a free agent at 34. Uggla likely would seek at least a five-year contract as a free agent after next season, delaying his next deal to 36.
While the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are among the high-revenue teams that wouldn’t pursue a second baseman in the 2011-12 market, Uggla also could play third base and outfield, increasing his options.
The Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are among the teams that might want a second baseman after next season. The Angels, a team in need of power, could trade for Uggla this offseason, play him at second or third and give him the five-year deal he’s seeking. The Red Sox could make the same type of move, using him at third if they fail to land Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
The Marlins’ frustration with their inability to lock up Uggla is understandable; they offered him the highest average annual salary in club history. A fifth-year vesting option could bridge the gap — if he indeed wants to stay. If not, he potentially could enter the market next offseason as the only second baseman with five 30-homer seasons.
Advanced metrics portray Uggla as a below-average defender at second, but his offensive consistency is remarkable. He’s hit between 27 and 33 homers in each of his five seasons with the Marlins, with an OPS that was never above .877 and never below .805.
CUBS: DUNN DEAL?
By next offseason, the Cubs will be in the same advantageous position the Tigers are in now, gaining newfound flexibility after shedding onerous contracts.
Still, even though the Cubs remain locked into several big contracts, it’s difficult to imagine they’ll simply settle for free-agent scraps coming off a 75-win season.
They just might need to be creative, that’s all.
Left-hander Cliff Lee almost certainly is out of the question — he’d be too expensive. But with nearly $35 million coming off the books after next season, a back-loaded deal for first baseman Adam Dunn would make sense.
Some Nationals players believe that if Dunn signs with another team, it’ll be the Cubs. Dunn’s made it clear he doesn’t want to be a designated hitter. An American League team such as the Tigers or White Sox could blow him away with a strong financial offer, but his preference is to stay in the NL.
Yet, the Cubs need not go nuts for Dunn. They want to add a starter or setup man in addition to a hitter, and the supply of first basemen will exceed the demand.
Besides Dunn, the free agents at first include Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena, Ty Wigginton, Lyle Overbay, Nick Johnson, Derrek Lee and Jason Giambi. At least one of those players is likely to be available at a bargain price.
As for pitching, the Cubs are set with their left-handed relief, but they could pursue either a mid-rotation starter or right-handed setup man, depending upon how they view Andrew Cashner and some of their other young pitchers. The perception among some in the industry is that the Cubs want Cashner to set up, making them more likely to pursue a starter.
Trading outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and a portion of his $13.5 million salary would create additional flexibility, but Fukudome produced an .809 OPS last season, his best in three major league campaigns. He also showed a slight uptick after Mike Quade replaced Lou Piniella as manager.
Outfield prospect Brett Jackson, slowed by injuries with Team USA and in the Arizona Fall League, should be ready at some point next season. At that point, Fukudome will be more expendable.
WILL ANGELS’ MORENO DEAL WITH BORAS?
Angels owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times he was “angry” and “disappointed” by his team’s performance in 2010. The question now is whether he’ll put aside his past frustration with agent Scott Boras in an effort to improve his club.
Much as certain teams prefer to avoid Boras, it’s difficult when he represents many of the best players. Moreno abruptly pulled out of the Mark Teixeira negotiations with Boras in Dec. 2008, withdrawing an eight-year, $160 million free-agent offer. But now he might have no choice but to re-engage.
Outfielder Carl Crawford, represented by Brian Peters of Legacy Sports, is widely believed to be the Angels’ top free-agent target. But at least two of Boras’ clients — third baseman Adrian Beltre and closer Rafael Soriano — could be of interest to the Angels. So might a third, Jayson Werth, if Crawford signs with another club.
Boras represents two prominent Angels — pitcher Jered Weaver and first baseman Kendry Morales. Yes, Boras often prolongs negotiations, putting teams in difficult positions as they pursue other alternatives. But the Angels will need to be awfully creative if they intend to retool while shunning Boras’ clients.
REDS’ VOTTO, BRUCE: LONG-TERM DEALS?
Look for the Reds, who recently exercised right-hander Bronson Arroyo’s club option, to complete a two-year extension with the pitcher this week. Including the option, which is believed to be worth
$13 million, the value of the deal over three years is expected to be between $36 million and $39 million.
The Arroyo extension could be the first of several long-term deals for the Reds this winter. General manager Walt Jocketty has said he’d explore multi-year contracts for first baseman Joey Votto, right fielder Jay Bruce and right-hander Edinson Volquez, all of whom are arbitration-eligible for the first time.
Votto, though, might prefer to wait on a long-term deal until after the next set of eligible free-agent first basemen — Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder — sign new contracts.
Bruce’s agent, Matt Sosnick, has shown a willingness to go long-term with other clients. The Reds likely could save millions on Bruce over a five or six-year extension. Bruce, as a Super Two player, will be arbitration-eligible four times.
THE RELIEF MARKET: MANY OPTIONS
Look out for new Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers this offseason. The free-agent market is flush with relievers, and Towers excels at identifying undervalued bullpen candidates. In fact, the Mariners should be shuddering that they recently lost right-hander Brian Sweeney to the D-Backs on waivers.
The Marlins, who also display a knack for unearthing bullpen bargains, are another team to watch. Several other clubs — the Braves, Red Sox and Twins among them — also will be looking for relief help in various forms.
The Braves could use Jonny Venters or Craig Kimbrel to close, but might want a veteran such as J.J. Putz to provide stability in the late innings. The Red Sox want to reconstruct their relief corps in front of setup man Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Twins face the losses of three free agents: Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier.
“There are a lot of options,” one executive says. “But you have to approach it with the mindset that this is the most dangerous group of free agents to put stock into. Year in, year out, very few provide dependable production. They all have little hickeys.”
AROUND THE HORN
The Tigers have nearly $60 million come off the books, which is why they’re perceived as leading candidates for free-agent catcher Victor Martinez and possibly Crawford and/or Dunn.
Martinez, like any slugger, would be better off in a more hitter-friendly environment than Comerica Park. But his .369 career on-base percentage and .856 OPS with runners in scoring position will make him an offensive asset in any park.
One potential landing spot for Jeff Francoeur: Philadelphia. The Phillies will need a right-handed platoon partner for Domonic Brown if they fail to re-sign Jayson Werth. Francouer’s a career .299/.343/.481 hitter against left-handed pitching.
The Braves, again seeking outfield help, are among the clubs that could take a look at Pat Burrell. Only six teams had a lower OPS from their outfield than the Braves — and that was with right fielder Jason Heyward putting up an .849.