Indians Sign Juan Uribe

The Indians are in the process of signing Juan Uribe to a one year deal today. Uribe immediately bolsters third base and likely elevates the floor of production for third base over a Giovanny Urshela/Jose Ramirez time share.

As I detailed last week there is significant risk with Urshela's bat which has led the Indians to exhaust various options this offseason to upgrade it. This began with talks surrounding Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier, and ended today when the Indians signed Uribe.

First, we must talk about risk. Uribe is 36 years old and soon to be 37, the aging curve is known to be a cruel mistress so there is always risk in terms of tool degradation and increased injury risk based on age.

This is a caveat that I have given short shrift because it is simple to explain but should not be understated in terms of its potential adverse affects. However, the Indians acquired Uribe at such a cheap cost that there is no downside to cutting him loose and committing to one of Urshela, Ramirez or Yandy Diaz.

Uribe over the past three years has been league average or better at third base pairing above average defense with a league average or better bat.

For context on how good Uribe has been from 2013-2015, here are third baseman ranked based on wins above replacement.

In 2015 the Indians third baseman combined for a wRC+ of 72, which placed them among the three worst teams in baseball for offensive production.

Uribe, always a good defender at third base has posted a wRC+ over 100 for three straight seasons and has a career wRC+ of 87. Either of these would be an improvement over the Indians existing third base duo.

Now for the projections I used the presumptive starter Urshela as the baseline.

Steamer for Juan Uribe: 1.2 WAR
ZIPS for Uribe: 2.3 WAR
Steamer for Urshela: 0.6 WAR

Based on the projections, Uribe is worth roughly half a win to a win more than Urshela which at the margins is a significant upgrade. Of course there is variance and if Uribe produces at bottom bound and Urshela at top bound, Uribe could be supplanted.

However. for a team in a tight American League Central, and an incredibly balanced league in general, moving roughly a win up the win curve has significant value.

There is no doubt that Uribe has downside but throughout his career his floor has been tremendous. Further, the cost is so limited(cost shown in the tweet below) that if Uribe collapses the Indians will not be stuck running him out there and can figure out third base with Urshela or Diaz.

Uribe also will need to be rested. At this point Uribe will likely be playing only 100-120 games which means that either working Urshela in slowly or hopefully getting Ramirez regular time at third base will be necessary.

Since Casey Blake, stabilizing third base has been a nightmare for the Indians and Uribe certainly won't be a solution to that issue. However, as stopgaps go, Uribe is cost efficient, very competent and likely eliminates third base as a glaring hole.

This is essential for the Indians. The Indians have the studs be it Lindor, Brantley, Kipnis, Gomes and they have an elite rotation. Eliminating the duds makes this roster really play up.

Uribe likely moves third base out of the dud category and for the cost, this is a huge win for the Indians.

Follow Mike on Twitter @snarkyhatman.
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