Okay, I admit it – I was really getting angry with Juan Uribe - especially with continuing reports that he wouldn’t even respond to Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti’s repeated offers to return to the Dodgers for what was believed to be a one year contract with an option for a second year.
Granted, Uribe had a great season in 2013 – at least great by Juan Uribe standards with a .278 batting average and 12 home runs. But lest we forget that the first two seasons of his ludicrous three-year/$21 million contract were absolutely awful when he hit .204 and .191 with 4 and 2 home runs respectively. And then there are his career numbers which are anything but stellar. In 13 big league seasons, Uribe has a career triple slash of .253/.299/.420 – not exactly Hall of Fame numbers or even the kind of numbers that a guy should be holding out with.
Uribe’s stubbornness to even negotiate with Colletti was quickly beginning to irritate Dodger fans and alienate them from the oft teased “Uribear.” He was clearly playing with fire by jerking the Dodgers around because, quite frankly, he’s not all that good. Here again, when you look at Uribe’s career numbers, every indication is that 2013 was the exception and not the rule; and at 34 years old, one can only assume that his production numbers will begin to decline even further. All of that said, Uribe was still the best free agent third baseman available on the market this off-season – especially defensively.
When it was reported early Saturday morning that the Dodgers were prepared to move on from Uribe and that they were now seriously considering signing 37-year-old Michael Young to be their everyday third baseman in 2014, my anger actually turned to rage. Even the most casual of Dodger fans are aware that Young did absolutely nothing for the Dodgers during his one month with the team and did even less during the postseason. Surely the Dodgers could do better than Michael Young. Heck, even Mark Ellis would be a better choice for third base than Michael Young, not to mention that he could also spell recently signed Cuban superstar infielder Alexander Guerrero at second base once in a while. (Note: Mark Ellis was drafted out of the University of Florida as a third baseman. In fact, when he played for the Gators, his teammates referred to third base as ‘Ellis Island’ because he played the position so well).
Lo and behold, the Michael Young thing was just a ruse by Colletti to light a fire under Uribe to get he and his agent to move – and it worked. Around noon on Saturday it was reported that Uribe had agreed to a guaranteed two-year contract with the Dodgers for a reported $15 million. Although this was longer than the one plus one contract that Colletti wanted, it was also shorter than the guaranteed three-year contract that Uribe wanted. It was indeed a compromise right down the middle. (Note: It had been rumored that the Marlins had offered Uribe a guaranteed three-year deal, although this rumor was never substantiated).
The bottom line is that Uribe is returning to the Dodgers for two years, which just so happens to fit right in with Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten’s master plan for the team. Kasten has been very specific about the Dodgers’ plan to “get younger” by investing heavily in their minor league system – which he refers to as Phase II of rebuilding and returning the Dodgers into a championship franchise (with Phase I being the acquisition of several well established All-Star-caliber players and going for immediate results towards that end). To help Kasten accomplish Phase II, he has hired several well respected (and very successful) scouting executives over the past two years and the fruits of his efforts are beginning to show both domestically and internationally.
One of the most notable prospects is infielder Corey Seager, who was selected by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Although still only 19 years old, Seager is moving up quickly through the Dodgers farm system, having finished the 2013 season with the Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and having participated in the recently concluded 2013 Arizona Fall League. Although a natural shortstop (even at 6′ 4″), Seager is more likely a better fit at third base. The problem is that Seager is still at best one full year away from being MLB-ready and more realistically two full years away. With Saturday’s re-signing of Uribe for two years, Phase II of Kasten’s plan now appears to be right on schedule.