And so it ended with the first seven words of a post on the team’s Twitter account: “The Braves have released 2B Dan Uggla.”
The saga that had become ever more uncomfortable in recent weeks, with first the benching and then the one-game suspension of the long-struggling second baseman, ended when the Braves gave Uggla his unconditional release Friday.
The Braves made the move with nearly 1 1/2 seasons and about $19 million remaining on a five-year, $62 million contract extension he got after being traded to the Braves in November 2010.
They are obligated to pay all of that amount, making this nearly twice as much as the team had ever agreed to pay essentially to have a player go away (they paid $10 million of Derek Lowe’s $15 million salary when he was traded to Cleveland with one season left on a four-year, $60 million contract).
People familiar with the situation said Uggla was suspended for Sunday’s game against the Cubs after showing up at Wrigley Field only about one hour before Saturday’s 3:05 p.m. (CDT) game.
When word spread that rookie Phil Gosselin had been removed from the second game of a doubleheader Saturday in Norfolk, Va., and called to the majors, there was speculation that Uggla might be designated for assignment, traded or released. The Braves announced Sunday morning, before their last game prior to the All-Star break, that Uggla had been suspended for one game.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez initially said “I guess” when asked if Uggla would be back when the Braves returned from the All-Star break to face the Phillies in Friday’s series opener. Then Gonzalez said yes, he expected Uggla would be back.
The Braves have tried for many months to trade Uggla, who has hit .162 with two home runs and 40 strikeouts in 145 plate appearances and had his playing time severely diminished since rookie second baseman Tommy La Stella was brought from Gwinnett on May 28.
Uggla, 34, made just two starts in 42 games since La Stella arrived, and went 0-for-10 as a pinch-hitter this season. The Braves had, for all intents and purposes, been playing a man short on their 25-man roster for weeks, since Uggla plays no other position and was not well-suited for a pinch-hitting role.
The Braves had tried to no avail to find a team willing to trade for Uggla and pay at least a small portion of his remaining salary commitment.
Since hitting two home runs at Philadelphia on April 14, Uggla batted .129 (11-for-85) with one extra-base hit (double) and no RBIs in his last 36 games, with eight walks, 26 strikeouts and six errors. He was 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts since May 23.
The Braves traded for Uggla after he averaged nearly 31 home runs and 93 RBIs during his first five major league seasons with the Marlins. He hit .263 with a .349 OBP and .488 slugging percentage over that period, and had a career-best .287 average and .369 OBP in his final season in Miami in 2010.
After being traded from Miami to Atlanta during the 2010 General Managers meetings, Uggla got a five-year contract extension – which briefly made him the highest-paid second baseman in baseball — before he’d played a game for the Braves.
He has hit .209 with a .317 OBP and a .391 slugging percentage in just over 3 ½ seasons for the Braves while totaling 79 homers and 225 RBIs in 499 games.
He had a career-low 19 homers in 2012 and career lows in average (.179), OBP (.309), slugging (.362) and RBIs (55) in 2013. He has 535 strikeouts in 1,701 at-bats for the Braves.
Since hitting .377 with 15 homers during a 33-game hitting streak in July-August 2011, Uggla has a .201 average and 52 homers in his past 380 games, with 431 strikeouts in 1,253 at-bats.
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