One of the biggest question marks coming into the offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers is what to do about the position of third base. Oddly enough if you were to poll the majority of Dodger fans coming into the 2013 season there would be a resounding NO on bringing back Juan Uribe in any capacity for 2014.
Nobody would be shocked on that outcome seeing that Uribe had the worst two seasons of his life in 2011-12. The first two years of his three year contract saw Uribe hit a combined .199 in 474 plate appearances leading to a relentless onslaught of insults from Dodgers fans.
In 2013 Uribe got his act together and was more than respectable at 3B both offensively and defensively. If you’re a believer in the WAR (4.1) and dWAR (1.8) statistics it was the highest and second highest of his career. Also the highest of his career was OBP of .331 and OPS+ of 117.
Stats aside, Uribe meant a great deal to the Dodgers team within the clubhouse. We’ve heard it all year long that he was a big part of what made this team fun during the long season. There are those that will tell you that stuff like “chemistry” and keeping a locker room loose is a bunch of hogwash. Since chemistry isn’t tangible we’ll never know.
There are instances that stick out that make Uribe valuable by actions observed. Specifically on July 13 for a day game against the Colorado Rockies and there was a group of reporters, myself included, around Carl Crawford asking him about his back. Meanwhile directly behind me Matt Kemp had just walked in wearing a brown suit that was straight out of the seventies (in my opinion).
Expensive looking, yes, but not something many people would wear.
Uribe, whose locker is right next to Kemp’s, immediately started heckling Kemp for what Uribe thought was a terrible choice in clothing. After a while of taking the jokes, Kemp reached into Uribe’s locker and pulled out a pair of bright blue shorts.
“You’re talking about my clothes and this is what you wear?” Kemp said laughing. The shorts were a sight to behold but Uribe defended himself saying, “Its Dolce…I love it.”
That game turned out to be a two-hit complete game shutout for Zack Greinke and 1-0 win for the Dodgers. As the reporters were standing around Greinke’s locker listening to what he had to say, the group of us missed Hanley Ramirez trying to get through the group to his nearby locker.
After the third “excuse me” each being louder than the first, the media got the message to move. Uribe happened to be walking past at that moment and called out to Ramirez joking, “Don’t be jealous they’re not talking to you because you’re not the star of the game.” Ramirez chuckled and disappeared back into another room where Uribe was and some rough housing followed, in fun of course.
All that to say that Uribe’s light hearted nature plays a big part in chemistry for the long haul of the season. The relationship with Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and of all people Hyun-jin Ryu is invaluable to a club looking to win it all.
Normally signing a guy who turns 35 next season to play third for a team everyday would be a bad idea but there aren’t guys on the market that are worth signing over Uribe. Most of the free agents are around the same age as Uribe or older. The ones that are younger don’t play defense quite as well either.
The Dodgers would do good getting Uribe on a two-year deal with the second year being a team option. Depending on who you talk to in the organization or around baseball Corey Seager would be ready to be the everyday third baseman by that point so Uribe would bridge the gap to Seager. If Seager really stays at shortstop like some insist (not me) then Ramirez could be ready to shift to third.
As far as trades go for the Dodgers to shore up third base there aren’t any that are easily done or worth it. Kyle Seager, Corey’s brother, would be fantastic but why would the Seattle Mariners give up their 20-plus homer third baseman? Left-handed with power at third is something the Mariners will hang on to.
Aramis Ramirez will be on the final year of his deal if the Dodgers needed to get somebody at the deadline next year. The often injured member of the Milwaukee Brewers is due $16 million next year with a mutual option for 2015 which comes with a buyout of $4 million.
Will Middlebrooks might become available if the Boston Red Sox decide to play Xander Bogaerts there instead. However, Middlebrooks isn’t great defensively and at what cost are you trading for him. The Dodgers want to build from within now that they’ve thrown their money around.
Seager is the only one that makes sense as a trade and there is no way that happens unless Kemp is involved most likely.
The position of third base has been so unstable since Adrian Beltre left after the 2004 season. There have been 19 different guys to play at least 20 games at third in the past nine seasons. Only four of those played over 59 games which includes the 118 from Uribe in 2013.
It just makes sense for the Dodgers to bring back Uribe and it is doubtful that he would get more than two years anywhere. Here is to hoping there will be more eating bananas in the dugout and jazz hands aplenty.