How Do You Feel About Juan Uribe in 2013? (Updated)

I didn’t really want to talk about Juan Uribe again, especially bumping Vin’s birthday down the page, but with Jon Heyman reporting that the club is close to finalizing a 3/$21m deal with him, I suppose people are going to want to discuss it.

Before we get into the epic freakout that giving a mediocre player a three-year committment is sure to kick off, let’s at least note the positives here – and yes, there are some. Such as…

1) Signing Uribe would almost certainly mean that Ryan Theriot gets non-tendered. That doesn’t make giving Uribe three years okay, of course, but any solution that ends with Theriot leaving town has at least some merit.

2) It does improve the team somewhat  in 2011. Unfortunately, that’s more because Theriot is awful and not because Uribe is all that great. He’s got far more power and he’s a better defender, and he was worth 2.8 and 3.2 fWAR over the last two years. I’m on record as saying that I don’t think Ivan DeJesus is ready in 2010, and Uribe is near the top of a bad list of options to fill the role. The Dodgers were a team short on power and fielding last year, and this helps with both for 2011.

3) It gives the club flexibility going forward. I hate giving Uribe three guaranteed years – more on that in a second – but don’t forget how in flux the Dodger infield is. Besides for the big hole at 2B, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake are each entering the final guaranteed years of their contracts. There’s no obvious successor at 3B coming from within, and while we all hope Dee Gordon is ready to take over SS in 2012, he’s very raw and it’s not guaranteed. So Uribe’s flexibility could help the team in years to come.

Now that we’ve got the positives out of the way… what in the hell is this team doing giving three years* and $22m to Juan Uribe?! (*standard caveat of “it’s just a report, and not an official deal yet” applies.) Uribe’s never had even a two-year deal in his life. He was quite good in 2005 with the White Sox (111 OPS+, 23 HR), but after four consecutive years of not having an OBP over .301, he was cut loose after 2008. The Giants got him for 1 year, $1m in 2009, and he was quite good again – 112 OPS+ – so they resigned him for 1 year, $3.2m in 2010. Other than increasing his HR, he completely regressed  at he plate. His OPS fell from .824 to .749, and his wOBA fell from .351 to .322.

That doesn’t make him useless, but as I’ve said every other time I’ve talked about him, I like him for one year and I’d accept an option for a second. But now we’re taking a guy whose age 25-28 seasons were all basically a waste, had one good year at 29 and couldn’t quite keep it up at 30 three guaranteed years? Why? Because he was a Giant? Because he hit a homer in the World Series (despite doing little else in October)?

Look at it this way. I didn’t like giving Casey Blake a third guaranteed year after 2008, and Blake was at least coming off of seven consecutive years of solid average-to-above-average play. Uribe gets credit for playing the middle infield where Blake cannot, but he’s coming off of.. well, you know. Yet he also gets three years, more money, and Uribe has his share of questions about his weight and work ethic which Blake did not. Besides, we all know the Dodgers like to backload their contracts, so it won’t be an even 7/7/7 (ish) split. Look forward to paying Uribe $10m in 2013!

And the question must be asked: what now? The Dodgers have already spent far more than any of us expected they would this offseason, but there’s still a lot of holes. They still don’t have a catcher or a left fielder, and they still have mediocre production from first base and third base. Now I’ll reserve my judgement on that until I see what shakes out in the rest of the offseason, but if Juan Uribe is your big acquisition to fix an offense that was awful last year, that’s just not good enough.

I suppose it all comes down to this. In a vacuum, I like Jon Garland‘s one-plus-one deal. For 2011 only, I like Juan Uribe. But you’ve just committed (assuming Garland hits his 190 IP to trigger his option, which is very likely) $35-$38m (Garland has $3m in 2011 incentives) to two guys who are useful pieces, but hardly gamechangers. If you had $38m to spend over the next three years… well, that’s pretty damn close to buying Adam Dunn, isn’t it?

For over a year now, we’ve complained that the McCourt divorce case is hindering the baseball operations team from making the moves they needed. Perhaps we were shortsighted; the big downside of having money to spend is that this team now has money to spend.

******
Update, 1:45pm PST: Hey, today just keeps getting better and better! Jon Garland was just on Jim Bowden’s XM radio show. Bowden tweets:

Jon Garland just told us that teams wouldn’t offer him a multi-year deal because of MRI’s and Physicians opinions that he would break-down

I didn’t hear this live, so it’s possible something was lost in the translation, but it’s an eye-opener. On one hand, this seems highly unlikely, because Garland is known for his durability – and because what player would admit that?! On the other hand, it’s not like Ned Colletti’s never knowingly signed an injured pitcher before.

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