The Dodgers are betting on Juan Uribe to provide pop from the fifth or sixth spot in their lineup this season.
Heading into the offseason, the Dodgers identified their top needs as starting pitching (only Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley were signed) and a middle infielder. In 2010, Dodgers' second basemen were underwhelming, hitting a combined .253/.339/.330 with three home runs. The Dodgers decided to upgrade from Ryan Theriot, who was arbitration eligible, and did so with free agant Juan Uribe, fresh off a World Series win with the Giants.
But oh, what a price the Dodgers paid.
Uribe was a valuable player for the Giants in the last two seasons. He hit a combined .266/.318/.464, a 105 OPS+, with 50 doubles and 40 home runs in 2009 and 2010 combined, and played all over the infield. Uribe started 131 games at shortstop, 56 games at second base, and 55 games at third base in two years with San Francisco. Not bad for somebody who signed a minor league deal before 2009, and made a total of $4.25 million in two years as a Giant.
The Dodgers signed Uribe for a whopping three years and $21 million. His versatility played a part in his signing, as the Dodgers have the injury-prone Casey Blake at third base and Rafael Furcal at shortstop, and although both have options for 2012, it seems likely that at least one of them, if not both, won't be back next year. Even this year, though the plan is for Uribe to play mostly second base, Uribe will open the season at third base with Blake on the disabled list.
On one hand, Uribe seems like a clear upgrade over what the Dodgers had last year at second base, even if a few of the projections below might suggest otherwise. Much like the case with Rod Barajas, the Dodgers appear to have traded some on-base percentage for power. But even if one accepts that Uribe is in fact an upgrade, giving him the richest contract this winter for a second baseman seems like a risky venture.
But what if Uribe isn't an upgrade, or a marginal one at best? Remember, Uribe spent his age 25-28 years hitting .241/.284/.409, a 77 OPS+ with the White Sox. He does have a career on-base percentage of .2998, after all. There is the fear that Uribe could revert to his almost-out-of-baseball status at any time. Then again, he succeeded for two years back in the National League, and the Dodgers are betting Uribe will continue to do so. It's a $21 million bet.
Uribe hit just .149/.196/.277 in 51 postseason plate appearances for the Giants last year, but flags fly forever and Uribe will always be remembered in San Francisco for the game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 4 of the NLCS, the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the pennant-clinching Game 6 of the NLCS, and a three-run home run that broke open Game 1 of the World Series.
Uribe has hit 20 home runs in four of the last seven seasons, averaging 18 per season during that time. There have only been four seasons in Dodgers franchise history in which a player hit 20 home runs as a second baseman.
Uribe is in the first year of a three-year, $21 million contract. He will be paid $5 million in 2011.
|2011 Projections - Age 32 Season|
The Bill James and ZiPS projections seem a tad pessimistic to me. I'll pick Uribe to hit .257/.316/.444 with 21 home runs. I think Uribe will start 106 games at second base, 11 at shortstop, and 32 at third base.
What is your guess for Uribe in 2011? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, PA, and number of starts at each infield position.