Braves part ways with struggling 2B Dan Uggla
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves did everything they could over the last year to find a team willing to trade for struggling second baseman Dan Uggla.
There were no takers.
Uggla’s frustrating, four-year tenure with the Braves ended Friday when the team requested unconditional release waivers on a former starter still guaranteed over $18 million for the remainder of this year and next.
“We’ve been very active making calls for the last month,” general manager Frank Wren said. “We got to a point where we realized that this was probably our only avenue.”
Uggla received the news during an early afternoon meeting at Turner Field with Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez.
“He was professional, just like he always has been and always will be,” Gonzalez said. “Now he goes out and he can explore other opportunities. Somebody will give him a chance, and we wish him the best of luck.”
In his fourth season with the Braves, the 34-year-old Uggla was batting .162 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 48 games and 130 at-bats.
He had a 33-game hitting streak in 2011, the franchise’s second-longest, but also struck out 495 times in 451 games over the last three years.
Uggla was benched permanently on May 28 when the Braves purchased the contract of second baseman Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Gwinnett.
The team’s patience with Uggla appeared to wear thin last Sunday when he was suspended one game for reporting just 30 minutes before the start of a game at the Chicago Cubs.
Uggla, a three-time NL All-Star, hit .179 with 22 homers and 55 RBIs last year and underwent corrective eye surgery last summer. He struggled so much that he was left off the postseason roster after losing his job to Elliot Johnson, a journeyman claimed off waivers in late August.
The Braves reinserted Uggla as the starter at the beginning of spring training this year, but he hit .212 in April and .080 in 25 at-bats during May.
“It wasn’t because he didn’t prepare or didn’t work hard,” Wren said. “He did all those things, so I can’t answer what happened from a performance standpoint.”
The Braves recalled utility man Tyler Pastornicky from Gwinnett to take Uggla’s spot on the 25-man roster before Friday’s game against Philadelphia.
Atlanta acquired Uggla on Nov. 16, 2010 when Wren traded infielder Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn to the Marlins. Wren soon signed Uggla to a five-year contract worth approximately $62 million.
“When we made the deal, right-handed power was of the most difficult things to acquire,” Wren said. “It was the perfect fit at that time. Even the first year, Dan hit 36 home runs, and we felt like this was the perfect match. It didn’t continue to fit as well.”
After meeting with Wren and Gonzalez, Uggla spoke with several teammates before leaving the clubhouse seemingly for the last time.
“It’s obviously a tough day for me,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “He was beloved by everybody in this clubhouse. He came in here every day and worked hard. He already told us he wants to go on (to another team). It’s definitely going to take a while for me (to get over).”
Added right fielder Jason Heyward, “He always hustled, did not complain one time, wanted to be in the lineup. There’s not enough good things we can say about him.”
With 67 games remaining, the Braves are tied for first place in the NL East with Washington. Wren likes the makeup of his roster now, but will continue to consider ways to improve before the trade deadline later this month.
“We have some really good pieces and we have some good, young players (in the minors) that we think can help us in the second half,” Wren said. “We’ll look for ways to improve our club internally, maybe externally, but we do think that the foundation of a real good ballclub is here.”