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Indians and Juan Uribe Unite on a One-Year Pact

Indians and Juan Uribe Unite on a One-Year Pact

| On 19, Feb 2016

In a move heavily speculated all offseason and a long time coming, the Cleveland Indians and free agent infielder Juan Uribe have reportedly come to terms on a one-year contract for the 2016 season, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

The move has not been made official by the Indians and is pending a physical from the soon-to-be-37-year-old 15-year MLB veteran. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that if the deal is completed, it will be for a $4 million base salary with incentives taking it up towards the $5 million mark. Uribe is currently dealing with visa issues, slowing the process down.

Uribe has some mileage on him now, but has remained a regular contributor in the field in the last several seasons. Indians fans may remember him best for his five-year stint with the Chicago White Sox during some of the best seasons of his career from 2004 to 2008 during his only time in the American League in his career.

Uribe signed as an amateur free agent with the Colorado Rockies in 1997 and spent his first three big league seasons playing in Denver before he was swapped to Chicago for infielder Aaron Miles. He signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent following the 2008 season and spent two productive seasons there, hitting a career-high 24 homers and 85 RBI for the Giants in 2010.

He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011 and spent parts of five seasons with the club and hit a career-high .311 in 2014. He traveled across the country last year, starting the season in Los Angeles before being dealt to the Atlanta Braves in a six-player trade at the end of May. A week before the non-waiver trade deadline in July, he was moved to the New York Mets with Kelly Johnson for a pair of prospects. He did not appear with the Mets in the postseason until the World Series, when he had an RBI-single in his lone plate appearance. He was sidelined throughout the playoffs with a chest contusion that he later aggravated.

Uribe has played all four infield positions in his career, but the bulk of his time was at shortstop, a position he has not played regularly since 2010. At this stage of his career, he has become a regular third baseman, with an occasional appearance at second base. His defensive play has been consistently overlooked, possibly due to his big 6’0”, 240 pound frame, but he has posted a career .970 fielding percentage at third and .991 at second base. His range factor per nine innings at each position is better than league average over his career.

Uribe is lauded for his clubhouse contributions and becomes the third significant veteran signing for the Indians, joining Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis. In addition to being the oldest of the bunch, Uribe has easily logged the most years of MLB experience on the Indians roster. Davis and Napoli each reached the Majors in their mid-20’s and have appearance in parts of ten different seasons.

The move does have an unknown trickle down effect on the Indians roster in spring camp.

The club ended last season with their long-time third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall in right field and rookie Giovanny Urshela manning the hot corner. While Urshela impressed with the glove and arm work a great deal, his numbers at the plate left a little to be desired in his first action against Major League pitching.

Both Uribe and Urshela are right-handed, so it eliminates a traditional platoon option. Uribe hit .253 last season with 17 doubles, 14 homers, and 43 RBI in 119 games. Urshela, still 24 years old, hit .225 with eight doubles, a triple, six homers, and 21 RBI in 81 games for the Tribe but did deal with injuries in his debut at the Major League level.

The hot take tends to be that Urshela could find himself back in Columbus to start the season to refine his offensive work while potentially splitting time there with prospect Yandy Diaz. While there is an argument to be made that Urshela would fair better to see live MLB pitching instead, the addition of Uribe would presumably cut into him receiving regular playing time in Cleveland. Uribe has averaged 118 games played over the last three seasons and 117 in his career.

If Urshela does head back to the Clippers, Jose Ramirez would presumably become the backup third baseman on the roster while fulfilling the role of “super-utility-man” for the club, a spot he inherited when Mike Aviles headed to Detroit in free agency in the offseason.

The signing of Uribe, if/when it becomes official, will also create waves on the 40-man roster, where the Indians will need to make a move to free up a spot for the veteran infielder.

There is the possibility that one of the players recovering from offseason surgery could land on the 60-day disabled list, including recent signing Tommy Hunter. Other players brought in over the fall and winter, including reliever Dan Otero and Joey Butler, could become roster casualties, as the bullpen and outfield spots were both heavily addressed by the Indians front office following the 2015 season. Other candidates may include 29-year-old reliever Austin Adams, who too may be lost in the bullpen battle this spring, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who is again blocked at first base with options Napoli and Carlos Santana on the roster, or Zach Walters, coming off of a shoulder injury sustained in the International League playoffs and stuck in a crowded mix in the outfield while not showing much consistency during limited opportunities in Washington and Cleveland.

The roster issues will be resolved upon the completion of the deal, giving the Indians a little bit of time to make a final decision.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images