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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Uggla's power immediately makes Atlanta a better team


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Think back to early October.

Think back to before the Giants were champions, back to when the Giants and Braves were playing all those one-run games in the first round of the playoffs. Think back to how the Giants scored just 11 runs in four games, and still advanced.

Now remember that in seven games against the Giants this year, Dan Uggla hit five home runs and drove in 10 runs.

Dan Uggla brings much-needed power to Atlanta. (Getty Images)  
Dan Uggla brings much-needed power to Atlanta. (Getty Images)  
So yeah, if you're wondering how Tuesday's first big trade of the winter could affect the balance of power in the National League, the answer is that it could be huge. It doesn't mean the Braves are suddenly better than the Giants or the Phillies, but it does mean the Braves are suddenly and significantly better than they were when they played the Giants last month.

You want to know what Uggla is? He's the guy the Braves were searching for at the trade deadline in July, the guy they were searching for last winter, and the guy they were searching for the winter before that.

"For several years now, we've been looking for that legitimate right-handed presence in our lineup," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "Someone who is a 30-home run guy."

Someone like Dan Uggla, the 30-homer guy who just fell into their lap.

Maybe Uggla is nuts for turning down what the Marlins offered him, a reported $48 million over four years. Maybe he's nuts for asking (according to the Miami Herald) for $71 million over five years.

Maybe he only stays with the Braves for a year.

Given what the Braves gave up (super utility man Omar Infante, who also has one year left before free agency, and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn), that hardly matters. Given how hard the Braves have tried to find a guy just like Uggla, they're willing to take that chance.

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The Braves haven't had a guy hit 30 home runs in any of the last four years. Now they have a guy who has hit 30 home runs in each of the last four years.

Only nine guys in baseball have done that, and they're all names you know well: Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira and Adam Dunn, Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder.

And Dan Uggla.

No wonder Braves catcher (and cleanup hitter) Brian McCann was "ecstatic," as Wren termed it Tuesday. No wonder Chipper Jones was so excited, according to Wren.

Jones, the Braves say, should be healthy and ready to go by opening day. Martin Prado should be ready to go, too.

Uggla plays second base. He's not great defensively, but as one scout said Tuesday, "He's a Gold Glove second baseman -- when he's in the batter's box."

Jones, if he's healthy, plays third base. Prado either plays left field (if Jones is healthy), third base (if he's not) or even once in a while at first base (if new manager Fredi Gonzalez wants to rest rookie Freddie Freeman against a tough left-hander).

The Braves played the Giants last month without any of those three guys. The Braves played the Giants last month with a lineup that barely belonged in the playoffs.

So yes, the Braves helped themselves considerably on Tuesday.

As for the Marlins, you really have to wonder where they are heading. If Uggla really was stuck on getting $71 million for five years, it's understandable that they didn't want to pay it.

But can you really say the Marlins are better off today than they were when the week began, if what they were basically doing was clearing Uggla's money away and using it to sign free-agent catcher John Buck?

The Braves can easily say that they're better off. The winter's just getting started, and they've already done the thing they most wanted to do, the thing they never could get done last winter or the winter before.

"I don't think we're looking for a front-line player anymore," Wren said.

Others who know the Braves suggested they aren't done improving their team, that they could still make more deals. But even if they can't, they're already much better than they were.

Wren said he's not worried about Uggla's contract demands, calling it "not a subject for today." He said the Braves would like to keep him for more than a year, but that was kind of obvious, anyway.

The fact is, they would have loved to have had Uggla last year, too. They would have loved to have Uggla last month.

They'll never know what difference he may have made then.

They're anxious to find out what kind of difference he can make for them now.


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