The Atlanta Braves were the big winners of the Dan Uggla sweepstakes, snagging the All-Star second baseman for the low, low price of Omar Infante and Mike Dunn. It doesn’t sound like Uggla was ever on the Twins’ radar, which is a shame because, with a hole at second base and a need for right-handed power, Uggla would have been a perfect fit. And though Uggla is a liability in the field, having J.J. Hardy and Justin Morneau (hopefully) on either side of the infield would make up for some of his lack of range. It appears the front office erred in passing on Uggla, especially since he probably could have been had for some combination of Alexi Casilla and Brian Duensing. However, it’s also likely that the front office felt they could pass on Uggla because there is a similar, and cheaper, player in the system already: infielder Luke Hughes.
Hughes and Uggla are pretty similar in that they both have a bit of power and decent plate discipline, though Hughes has spent more time at third base than second. Hughes has all of seven plate appearances in the majors, so there isn’t a sufficient enough sample size to compare their major-league numbers, but we can look at their minor league stats. Minor league comparisons are always imperfect due to the differences in talent level between the various leagues, but both have pretty similar numbers: Uggla batted .267/.347/.442/.789 in five seasons, with a 0.46 BB/K ratio, Hughes .270/.332/.420/.752 with a 0.40 BB/K in eight seasons. Hughes has spent more time in the minors than Uggla, but he’s also four years younger and is from a country (Australia) where there is little opportunity for young baseball prospects to develop. He’s been coming a long nicely in the Twins’ system and should get a chance to compete with Alexi Casilla for the second base job in spring training.
Obviously, it’s pretty unlikely that Hughes will ever be as good as Uggla; he doesn’t have as much power and lacks the selectivity to be an elite hitter (he looks to be a better defender, but just barely). Uggla has been worth 18.9 fWAR and 14.9 rWAR since 2006, while 2-3 WAR per season is essentially Hughes’ ceiling. However, Uggla is also due an estimated $10 million in arbitration and will be a free agent after next season, while Hughes won’t even be arbitration-eligible for four years (though, I think the trade for Uggla might have been worth it simply for the draft picks). The Twins aren’t a small-market team anymore, and they should spend money on elite talent to upgrade a position of need, but they can also afford to wait and see whether Hughes will stick at second base before making a trade for an expensive infielder.
Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.