“Fire him into the sun,” I’ve said. “Give him a Viking funeral,” I’ve suggested. Jokes, sure, but each valid suggestions. Yet with Ned Colletti unlikely to admit the mistake we all saw coming from day one and cut Juan Uribe loose – much less do anything that might actually cross the line into “felonious” – we’re going to need to find another viable solution to get this mess out of our lives.
Unlike most of the causes we take up, I hardly feel as though I need to back this up with statistical evidence. Hey, you lived through the last two seasons. You saw the ongoing disaster, and you chuckled along with the rest of us at Don Mattingly’s absolute refusal to play Uribe for weeks at a time in 2012 no matter what the circumstances. There will be plenty time to go over that in detail when we get into his review later this month, but if you must have a stat, there’s this: since 1900, there’s been 297 different Dodgers with at least 474 plate appearances. Uribe’s 54 OPS+ is better than exactly two of them – Juan Castro, who I know I don’t need to remind you of, and Bill Bergen, better known as the worst offensive player in history.
As if simply being awful wasn’t enough, there’s the additional issue of the 93 different infielders the Dodgers have signed up for next year. Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Luis Cruz, & Jerry Hairston are givens. Nick Punto probably is too, hard as it is to accept, and Dee Gordon, Elian Herrera, Justin Sellers, & Alex Castellanos all have varying degrees of hope for spots as well. Even with Ramirez, Cruz, & Gordon around, I’m still not convinced the Dodgers have a starting shortstop and may yet need to import one, so to say there’s no room at the inn for this continuing overpaid parasite of a ballplayer is an understatement.
Yet if Colletti won’t simply cut him loose – and while it certainly seems that he’s reluctant to swallow his pride here, it’s worth remembering that he did manage to ditch Andruw Jones after 2008 – then a face-saving move must be found for a new home. It’s not that easy, of course, because if your first reaction is “who the hell would want to trade for $8m worth of Juan Uribe?” I couldn’t really argue with that.
But as unlikely as it sounds to find a trade fit for Uribe, other teams have bad contracts on their hands as well. As long as you accept that you’re not likely to get anything that’s all that useful in return (unless you’re taking on so much that you’re not really saving any money anyway) then it’s potentially possible to take on someone else’s problem in order to relieve yourself of Uribe and hope that a “change of scenery” guy will find new life in Los Angeles.
What’s somewhat interesting about all this is that most teams who are desperate to rid themselves of poor deals aren’t exactly a great fit for the Dodgers, because their problems are owed a lot more than $8m. Vernon Wells is owed $42 million (!) over the next two seasons in Anaheim. The Mets still have $25.5m of Johan Santana and $16m of Jason Bay plus a $17m option for 2014 that could vest with enough playing time. In Miami, Heath Bell‘s atrocious deal still has $18m left over the next two seasons. I won’t even talk about Alex Rodriguez here, and anyone who thinks $30.5m of John Lackey is better than the rotation options the Dodgers already have can hand in their fan card at the door.
Now, you wouldn’t have to take on all of those salaries, because those teams are probably so desperate to deal that they’d take on half or more. But even then it’s difficult to justify. What if, for example, the Angels say they’ll eat $25m of the Wells deal and take Uribe, leaving Wells as a $9m player spread out over the next two seasons? We discussed earlier this week how the Dodgers could use a righty outfielder for depth, but Wells has hit only .222/.258/.409 in two seasons with Anaheim. Even taking into account that you’re not going to get anything great for Uribe, that’s not necessarily a better use of a roster spot than simply cutting Uribe and spending $2m or so on Jonny Gomes or Scott Hairston. The same argument could be made for Bay, who’s been a trainwreck in three years in New York and bottomed out last year at .165/.237/.299.
If you’re willing to get creative, I suppose there’s all sorts of options. Assuming the Dodgers successfully acquire a starting pitcher this winter, you could try to package Ted Lilly or Aaron Harang with Uribe, selling a team on the idea of getting at least a mediocre starter and allowing the Dodgers to take on a larger bad contract while opening up two spots at once. But that’s a complicated dance to make, particularly with Chad Billingsley‘s status still questionable, and that’s rarely been Ned Colletti’s style.
For simplicity’s sake, there’s an easy move to make for a player with a similar salary who has been possibly even more disappointing than Uribe: Chone Figgins, who has been horrendous in Seattle (.185/.249/.253 over last two seasons) and wants out rather than to return for his final year at $8m. That’d be the epitome of “my problem for your problem,” because Figgins has been all but unplayable with the Mariners, and he offers some nice additional defensive versatility over Uribe.
Then again, you’re still stuck paying $8m to a valueless roster spot, and if you’re doing that, isn’t it just better to simply cut Uribe and use his roster spot for someone who can actually help the team?
No matter how you slice it, Uribe cannot be on this team in 2013. It may be painful to simply cut the cord, but if this team did it with Jones, they can do it again. Cut him loose. Into the sun.