Our next season in review piece will cover third baseman Juan Uribe. The portly lovable third sacker was one of the most interesting Dodgers ever. Uribe went from being the most hated Dodger, to the most beloved Dodger in one short season. His clutch heroics, and empanada consumption spawned a day of the week to be dedicated to him (Uribe Wednesdays), and millions of Dodger fans to mimic his unique swing and follow through. (Jazz hands).
The Dodgers picked up Uribe on the free agent market in the winter of 2010. He was a Ned Colletti signing, inked to a 21 million dollar three year deal. The Dodgers had scouted Uribe during the 2010 World Series while he was with the Giants, and was impressed by his clutch hitting, and solid third base defense. Uribe’s first two years of his contract were horrible. He was hurt and couldn’t hit. Uribe batted .204 in 77 games in 2011, and then couldn’t even hit above the Mendoza line in 2012, batting .194 in 66 games that season. In those two seasons, Uribe hit just six home runs, while battling various injuries that included a sports hernia in 2011, and a wrist injury in 2012.
Finally in 2013, Uribe was healthy, but the Dodgers did not consider him a viable starting third baseman candidate. Uribe had been placed on the bench at the end of the 2012 season because he was so bad. Coming into the 2013 season, the Dodgers decided to go with Luis Cruz at third base, and keep Uribe on the bench, However after the Dodgers discovered how much Cruz sucked, they quickly gave Uribe another chance, and he never let it go. As the lovable third baseman once said, he just wants to help the team.
Uribe’s offense was much improved in 2013, thanks to a lot of hard work, and advice from Mark McGwire. This year was the patient Uribe. The right handed hitter drew 30 walks, (the most he’s walked since 2010), which led him to post a very decent .330 OBP. Uribe batted .278 (108 for 388) with a .769 OPS, 12 home runs, and 50 runs driven in. Uribe whiffed 82 times in 426 plate appearances. That’s the lowest amount for a full season for him since 2009. So Uribe was making more contact, striking out less, and drawing more walks. Uribe really turned it up at the end of the season, batting .292 in August, and .308 in September. Uribe is a career .290 hitter at Dodger Stadium.
Uribe is well known for coming through in the clutch, Case in point, he had three moments during the regular season that defined this reputation. On April 11, during the Greinke/Quentin brawl, it was Uribe’s clutch pinch-hit home run that won the game for the Dodgers.
Three home run game
On September 9, at home against Arizona, Uribe blasted three home runs, and drove in four runs during an 8-1 Dodger win.
Perhaps uribe’s most clutch moment came during the NLDS against the Braves. With the Dodgers up 2-1 in the series, and losing by one run in game 4 at Dodger Stadium, the boys in Blue were facing a plane ride back to Atlanta if they couldn’t win game 4. A loss would mean a tied series, and a trip back to Atlanta, to face a bunch of annoying tomahawk chants. Uribe saved us from that by first not getting down a bunt, and then smashing a huge two-run shot that put the Dodgers ahead for good. Uribe had been asked to bunt after Yasiel Puig’s lead-off double in the bottom of the eighth. Uribe fouled off the first two bunt attempts, and then the bunt signal was called off. After the bunt was called off, Uribe smacked a monster two-run shot into the backend of the Dodger bullpen, sending the Dodger Stadium crowd into a frenzy, and the Dodgers to the NLCS. Uribe batted .375 (6 for 16) with two home runs during the NLDS. However Uribe struggled in the NLCS hitting just .130 (3 for 23) in the six game series.
Uribe’s defense was his speciality. During the 2013 season, Uribe provided nearly flawless gold glove defense at third base, and a strong throwing arm. Vin Scully called him a vacuum, and rightfully so. Uribe only made five errors all season long, and posted a fielding percentage of .983. But look at all the runs he saved. According to the total zone runs above average, Uribe saved 22 runs during the 2013 season, registering a +22 rating. Uribe primarily was at third base this season, playing 123 games at the hot corner in 2013. He also played four games at first base.
2014 contract status
Uribe’s 21 million dollar three year contract ended at the end of the 2013 season. This makes Uribe a free agent coming into this offseason. Uribe made eight million dollars in 2013. The Dodgers have the option of making a qualifying offer to Uribe for the standard 13.3 million dollars. If not then Uribe can file for free agency.
Overall Outlook for 2014
One would think that with the recent signing of Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero would justify the resigning of Uribe for third base. You would think that the Dodgers would want to bring him back on a one year deal or something. The Dodgers like Uribe. Everyone does. The guy is a lovable clutch hitter with great defense, a strong throwing arm, and a huge clubhouse presence. Uribe was the star of the clubhouse, all of the players loved him, and he was the center of attention. He danced, they fed him bananas in the dugout, and the veteran third baseman is a star. Uribe became a fan favorite in a very short amount of time. It’s amazing how a player’s fortunes can turn so quickly isn’t it? With the limited options on the free agent market, and the bereft of a third base prospect in the farm system, it would make sense for the Dodgers to resign Uribe for the 2014 season. It remains to be seen if Juan Uribe will return to the Dodgers in 2014.