On February 4th, FanGraphs will put out “FanGraphs+“, a web-based supplement of premium content that includes over 1100 player capsules along with several long-form articles. It’s a great value for a reasonable price. 50 of those player caps were done by yours truly, including most of the Dodger roster, and the one that sticks out most in my mind is the one for Juan Uribe. While I can’t repeat what I said exactly here, suffice it to say that any recap of Uribe’s 2012 goes well past actual analysis and well into performance art; I believe I invoked some of humanity’s greatest disasters. It was unquestionably one of the recaps I enjoyed writing the most.
I bring this up because one of the questions I receive on a fairly regular basis is some variation on “why is Juan Uribe still on the roster?!”, and it’s a fair question. He’s really, truly, awful; terrible to the extent that I really don’t need to delve into the statistical facts to back it up — if you must know, his .199 career batting average as a Dodger is the worst in team history by a non-pitcher with as many plate appearances as he has — and the way he was treated by Don Mattingly down the stretch last year, shunned as though he was a leper, would seem to make it impossible to bring him back. (To Uribe’s credit, he reportedly dealt with the situation with class and without causing clubhouse problems.)
That said, Opening Day is still two months away, and while the idea of shipping him off immediately (yes, fine, into the sun) is more than a little appealing, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to satisfy a little bloodlust. For the moment, Uribe isn’t taking up a 40-man roster spot that could be better used elsewhere, not when the likely trade of at least one starting pitcher should free up one spot and the bottom of the roster is still occupied by easily-DFA’d fluff like Justin Sellers. He’s not giving away outs, not when the games aren’t being played yet. He’s not costing money that isn’t already committed.
By simply cutting him now, you cut your losses and move on, much like Seattle recently did with Chone Figgins. That’s fine, but is it really that efficient? No, it won’t bother the new-money Dodgers one bit to swallow the $8m still coming to him — ultimately, that’s what I expect will happen — but by cutting him, you lose the chance to include him in a trade and make him some other team’s problem. (To clarify there, no, no other team is going to come to the Dodgers trying to get him, but if the Dodgers are taking on someone else’s problem or if the deal is weighed a little too heavily for the other team, it’s conceivable to include him.) You also lose the chance to have him work with new hitting coach Mark McGwire, and while I don’t really have a ton of hope that McGwire can find the magic bullet, nor do I think any of us ever expected Uribe to be this bad.
Besides, you could probably use the depth for the endless spring training games. Having Luis Cruz & Hanley Ramirez each away at the World Baseball Classic opens up some time on the left side, and Jerry Hairston may be limited early as he recovers from hip surgery. As much as we like the idea of “anyone who isn’t Uribe,” does anyone here really love Nick Punto or Dallas McPherson that much? No? I didn’t think so.
So no, I don’t want to see Uribe in uniform on April 1, nor do I expect him to be. But does it really matter if he gets cut on January 30 or February 30 or March 30? As long as he’s not eating up plate appearances in games that count, I submit that it doesn’t.