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Dodgers Close To Signing Juan Uribe To Three-Year Deal

Juan Uribe and his new double play partner Rafael Furcal meet at second base.
Juan Uribe and his new double play partner Rafael Furcal meet at second base.

First Black Friday, now Cyber Monday: the Los Angeles Dodgers are busy this holiday shopping season. The Dodgers today are on the verge of signing infielder Juan Uribe, as first reported by Buster Olney of ESPN. The deal will be worth a shocking amount of money, $21 million (per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports) over those three years. Man, three years seems like a long time, and $21-22 million seems like a lot of cash for Uribe. It is really quite shocking when the upper limit seemed something like three years, $18 million. Uribe made $3.25 million with San Francisco last year.

Uribe hit .266/.318/.464 (105 OPS+) in two seasons with the Giants, including a career-high 24 home runs and 85 RBI in 2010. His time in San Francisco was a vast improvement over the rest of his career, with the White Sox and Rockies (.253/.295/.423, 80 OPS+ from 2001-2008). You may remember Uribe from his two-run home run off Jonathan Broxton on September 4, although to be fair it is hard to keep track of Broxton's blown saves in the second half. Or perhaps you remember Uribe and his Dante Bichettian follow through hitting a walk-off home run off Guillermo Mota on August 12, 2009.

The interest in Uribe reminds me of the old joke in which two men hiking in the woods spot a bear. The bear begins to pursue the men, and suddenly one of them stops to change his shoes. The other man says to his friend, "Those shoes won't help you outrun a bear," to which the friend replies, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!" Uribe isn't the best signing in the world, nor should he be considered the big bat the Dodgers need to contend. But, then again, he doesn't have to be. Uribe just needs to be better than Ryan Theriot at second base.

This move would put the Dodgers' 40-man roster at 39 players, but this move means Theriot will likely get non-tendered on Thursday, so Uribe is really just taking Theriot's roster spot (I expect the same thing will happen to whatever reliever the Dodgers sign to replace fellow non-tender candidate George Sherrill)

Uribe would play mostly second base, but can fill in at shortstop and third base if needed, which is a nice luxury given Rafael Furcal's injury history and the need to rest the 37-year old Casey Blake. Uribe is one of three players (along with Jeff Keppinger and Craig Counsell) to start at least 50 games at second base, third base, and shortstop in the last three seasons. Uribe rates from average (or nearly average) to above average at all three positions defensively:

Juan Uribe Defensively 2008-2010
Pos Starts Innings UZR Plus/Minus
2B 95 836.2 +8.2 +3
3B 107 976.1 +2.0 +1
SS 132 1,197.2 -0.4 +3
Thanks to Fangraphs & Bill James Online

The last time the Dodgers signed a high-homer, low-OBP former White Sox infielder, they got Jose Valentin and a line of .170/.326/.265 in the debacle that was 2005. Then again, I did like the Valentin signing (one year, $3.5 million) at the time, and he was hurt that year.

Just for fun, I plugged the lineup of Podsednik-Furcal-Ethier-Kemp-Loney-Blake-Uribe-Martin, with their 2011 Bill James Handbook projections (now on Fangraphs!), into the lineup analysis tool on Baseball Musings, and it averaged 4.29 runs per game. Scoring 695 runs (4.29 runs per game) would mean the Dodgers would need to give up about 615 runs to have a pythagorean record of 90-72. That's 28 more runs scored, and 77 fewer runs allowed than in 2010, for example.