Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tribe Talk 2.20.16: The Pros & Cons of Juan Uribe #Indians

By Alex Hale, @DaSportsGenius7

While Pitchers and Catchers reported for Spring Training earlier this week, the Cleveland Indians were not done making final adjustments to their roster.  On Friday afternoon, the Indians signed veteran IF Juan Uribe to a 1 year deal worth over $4 million.  The Indians plan on having Uribe fill in the role at 3B after Giovanny Urshela struggled offensively last year.  While I do have a lot of problems here with this signing, in fairness to the Indians we're going to give Tribe fans a fair analysis of the Indians signing Uribe with the Pros and Cons of the Indians latest move.

- Uribe is a savvy veteran clubhouse presence-  Look at the teams Uribe has played with over the past few years, since 2009, Uribe has played with consistent playoff teams in the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and was a member of the 2010 World Champion San Fransisco Giants (and even earlier a member of the 2005 WS White Sox).  Uribe has been with multiple winning teams and knows what it takes to get to the playoffs and more importantly, how to win in the playoffs.  Indians really have been lacking that kind of a presence since Jason Giambi left.  It's small things like having clubhouse leaders that really can make all the difference.

- Uribe is an offensive upgrade compared to Giovanny Urshela- If we look by the stats, yes Uribe is a major upgrade at 3B.  But at the same time, critics can say Giovanny was a rookie and he can always improve in Year Two.  The bottom line is the Indians are a team that can win the division, and arguably the American League pennant right now.  The Indians can't sit around forever waiting for Giovanny to learn how to hit at the big league level.  Uribe has been known to have some pop in his bat and still has the ability to hit 15 HRs a year.

- Uribe knows the division- Uribe's career really took off in Chicago in the mid-2000's and knows how competitive this division is.  While Uribe has been out of the division for a while now, the one thing about Baseball is the division normally stays the same rivalry-wise.  Having Uribe could help the core of this team clearing the biggest hurdle they have left, beating Detroit when it matters.

- It's only a 1 Year deal- No matter what happens with Uribe this year, he's only signed for 1 year.  Nobody can ever complain about 1 year deals, this buys the Indians time to continue to develop Giovanny Urshela as a hitter, and more importantly buys highly touted prospect Yandy Diaz time in the minors to continue to make strides and climb up the system.  Worst case scenario with this deal is the Indians don't live up to expectations, and Uribe becomes a small trade chip at the Trade Deadline for a contender.

- He plays the entire infield- The Indians lose Mike Aviles and gain quite possibly a better version of Aviles in Uribe.  While Uribe doesn't play the outfield, Uribe has experience at the Middle Infield positions to go with his ability over at 3B.  Francona does love his versatile fielders and Uribe is an upgrade to what Francona already had in Aviles, so this is a move you gotta believe Francona is loving right now.

- He's a significant downgrade defensively- When Juan Uribe makes multiple errors at 3B this year, don't come complaining to me.  While he does have a career .970 fielding percentage at 3B (which to the naked eye is good), comparing the number of games he's played at 3B with some of the greatest fielding 3B in the game's history is ridiculous.  Uribe has played in a fraction of the games at 3B they played.  Plus a reminder of his days in Chicago, I remember looking at him as a comparison for Jhonny Peralta, he can hit but he can be a liability defensively.  I wouldn't rely on Uribe to play gold glove defense that Urshela offered, I would instead brace for the problems we complained about defensively at 3B last year before Urshela.

- Uribe's numbers at Progressive Field are horrible- In 37 games, Uribe at Progressive Field is hitting .180 avg with 4 HRs, 17 RBIs, and a .206 OBP.  Bottom line is Uribe has never had success at Progressive Field and that's not a good sign for a guy you're paying $4 million to be an offensive upgrade.  The argument could be made here that last year, Brandon Moss was known to hit very well at Progressive Field and that really didn't help.  Only time will tell if Uribe's struggles at Progressive Field are for real or not, but at first glance...this is questionable.

- Indians are now pretty much maxed out in payroll- The Indians before the Uribe signing were on the books for around $80 million (that's not counting potential Minor League deal bonuses).  After the Uribe deal, the Indians are now pushing around $85 million in payroll, which is really at the max budget the Dolan's would like to spend. If you count maybe 2 more Minor League deals adding to the payroll in time, the Indians could be close to pushing $90 million.  The Dolan's really don't want to go over that which kills any trades the Indians could make at the Trade Deadline.  So if the Indians need another bat, Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff have to make one hell of a presentation to the Dolan's explaining why the Indians need a $100 million payroll.  Money says, the Dolan's won't budge.

- There were more pressing needs- My opinion has always been about 3B, it's a defensive position first.  If you can hit, that's a bonus.  That's why the Royals stuck with Mike Moustakas through his hitting struggles and more importantly that's the biggest trait for every great 3B in the game today (Arenado, Machado, Beltre, Seager).  All the top 3B in the league are outstanding defenders.  The Indians had one in Giovanny Urshela, but are choosing offense over defense.  The Indians could've found that offense at a biggest position of need, the Outfield.
 With Brantley out for a while and we don't know how long it'll take him to get up to speed, the Indians need a more proven bat in the outfield.  Having the speed of Rajai Davis and moving forward with Lonnie Chisenhall in RF are great, but you had Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson available.  Fowler would've given you a better offensive upgrade, but Jackson gave you better defense, solid hitting, and his familiarity with the Tigers.  The Indians should've inquired more on those two and tried to lure one of them in, even if they got a 1 year deal.

At the end of the day the Indians did what the fans asked them to do, build a better offensive team and Uribe technically will bring that to the Indians at 3B.  In my personal opinion, I'm against the signing, I think Giovanny Urshela needs time to develop his major league game and shows all the qualities of a solid MLB hitter with Gold Glove ability at 3B.  The Indians needed to learn from their mistakes last year which was when we don't have great defense at 3B, the Indians suffer.  Let's all hope Uribe can be serviceable defensively and provide enough offense to push the Indians back to the top of the Central Division.

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