Monday, November 29, 2010

Juan Uribe signs with Dodgers

Juan Uribe has officially signed with the hated Dodgers, pending a physical, and yet I harbor no ill feelings toward him. Prior to the 2009 season, Juan Uribe couldn’t find a job and the Giants signed him to a minor league contract. Despite the slight salary, he gathered 2.8 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version of WAR) in just 122 games while playing several infield positions. Uribe hoped his season would earn him a multi-year deal following that campaign, but it just didn’t in a down economy that impacted even professional sports. The Giants re-signed him for $3.25M in 2010 and he helped them significantly with a 3.2 WAR and some late game heroics. He was a huge reason the Giants won the World Series.
Jeff Kent went to the Dodgers and it was terribly fun to boo him. Jason Schmidt signed with them too, and immediately turned into Mike Hampton. That wasn’t necessarily FUN to watch, though if it were enjoyable to watch ANYONE rot on the DL, he’d have to be playing for the Dodgers. I’d like to say I wish Uribe well, but I’m just not sure I do. Not yet, anyway. No, rather I’m mostly happy that he finally earned some money that was well deserved. This was his third crack at free agency, and the first two shots yielded him A) a minor league deal and B) a one year deal of $3.25M. This 3/$21M pact will set him and his family up for life, and for that I am happy for him.
And when HE is flashing that World Series ring to his teammates in L.A. – Isn’t that a wonderful thought? –this is how I will be remembering him.
It grows and grows…
May 15, 2010
Juan Uribe, in the fourth inning, took Roy Oswalt deep with one on to give the Giants the narrow lead, 2-1. Lincecum would go eight and Wilson would save it. Uribe’s blast was all the offense the Giants needed, and he and Oswalt would meet again.
June 7, 2010
Uribe would finish this ballgame with 4 RBI, the last two coming off of a single in the seventh that scored two and put the Giants up 6-5, and secured the win against the Reds.
August 14, 2010
In August the Giants needed a series win against the Padres, but more than that, they desperately needed to avoid a sweep and one at home no less. They trailed by two in this game into the seventh against the hated Latos – he who perplexingly called the Giants a bunch of mercenaries, meanwhile his shortstop and left fielder were of the same ilk, and who also destroyed the sun roof on our beloved Dave Fleming’s new car; seriously, who fires a baseball into the players parking lot? In the seventh, Panda chased him by clobbering an eye-high fastball into the water. Burrell provided an RBI ground out in the eighth. And finally in the eleventh, Posey doubled, Pablo was intentionally walked, and “Jazz Hands” Uribe singled home Buster in walk off fashion. Mayhem ensued.
September 4, 2010
On a warm, clear night in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were leading against San Francisco by 4 runs from the bottom of the fourth and into the seventh at Chavez Ravine. Then Posey hit a solo shot in the seventh, and Renteria – one of just 3 HR in the regular season – led off with one in the eighth. Dotel relieved Lilly, and was rudely greeted when Burrell went Yahtzee next – this was, of course, a little over a month after Burrell burned Broxton for a game winning two-run blast on July 31. And finally in the ninth, Uribe delivered the crippling blow to the Dodgers with a two-run job off of their fallen closer, Jonathan Broxton, after a Cody Ross hustle, infield single. All was quiet, and the crowd of 48,220 (paid) emptied the bleachers, retired from their orange bucket seats and hurried to their crowded freeways.
October 20, 2010
The Giants went up 2-0 early with Bumgarner on the hill. Then, in the fifth, the Phillies put up a crooked number and it was 4-2 Phillies. But Huff singled home a run in the fifth to bring the Giants within one, and Pablo Sandoval hit a left-center gap double that scored two in the sixth – this was the biggest hit of his young career and his second double of the at bat – and the Giants led again. Lopez’s only blemish of the entire postseason – seriously – came in the eighth when Howard doubled off of him and Romo relented a Werth double that tied it in relieving him. But in the ninth, Manuel went with his starter Oswalt because it was his throw day, and because Roy talked him into it. Huff singled and Posey sent him first to third with an opposite field single following an epic battle, and also after going down 0 and 2. Uribe came up and Oswalt did everything to light Uribe’s hands on fire with fastballs in, because Uribe had a sore wrist. Except, he tried to get tricky and Uribe lofted his low changeup deep enough to left for Huff to score on a sacrifice fly. The home crowd went ballistic, and watching at home, so did I. The Giants were within a win of the Fall Classic.
October 23, 2010
The Giants went down early in game six of the NLCS. It was 2-0 after one, and Jonathan Sanchez was anything but sharp. But Sanchez singled in the top of the third and started a rally that tied the game 2-2. But then, he walked Polanco and hit Utley. Utley and he had history, and Utley somewhat politely tossed the ball towards the mound, which Sanchez took exception to. The benches cleared completely, except for a mild tempered fellow named Jeremy Affeldt, known for tweeting inspiration quotes, and his bullpen coach Mark Gardner. When the dust settled, Affeldt pitched two spectacular innings of no run ball, the first of which got them out of a two on, no out disaster. Then Bumgarner pitched two innings of no run relief. Then Lopez pitched an inning of no run relief. And in Ryan Madson’s second inning of relief, Juan Uribe did something he rarely does. He hit an opposite field, 346 foot home run that barely cleared the wall. I lost my mind. Soon after, Tim Lincecum struck out Jayson Werth before being relieved by Wilson, Ryan Howard looked disgusted while eyeing strike three, and the Giants won the pennant. Uribe was instantly enshrined in Giants lore.
Juan Uribe THE MAN
Now that I’ve covered the legend, I’ll try to throw in my two cents on whether the Dodgers did well on this contract, and therefore if the Giants missed out by not matching the deal.
Over the past two seasons, Juan Uribe has played third, second and shortstop for the Giants, and clubbed 40 combined home runs (16, 24). In those seasons, Fangraphs’ ultimate zone rating (UZR) has liked him at third (2.2, 2.6) and second (3.7, 2.1) in particular, and hasn’t hated him at short (-2.8, 2.1). His .351 weighted on base average (wOBA) was above average at .351 in 2009, and 10 to 20 points below average in 2010 (.322), though plenty good for a shortstop where he largely played. The Dodgers, however, have him slated for second in 2011. To be fair though, it seems likely he’ll spend time at short too when Furcal inevitably goes down to one physical malady or another.
Will Juan live up to the $21 million he’ll make over the next three seasons? Maybe. Offensively, his on base percentage (OBP) in 2009 was just fine at .329 when coupled with his .495 slugging percentage (SLG).  But if his OBP continues to erode like it did in 2010 (.310), and should his slugging too (.440 in ‘10), the contract will soon be looked upon suspiciously. His career OBP is just .300 after all, and his slugging just .431. And, his .322 wOBA is far less palatable if he’s playing second base, and it’s not far-fetched to hypothesize it’ll be around there where his career wOBA is just .312.
Defensivley, Uribe has posted positive UZR ratings in 6 of the past 7 seasons, and his only negative mark was just -0.1 in 2008. Though it’s fair to say he’s never been an elite defender, it’s also fair to say he’ll probably be a quality defender at either third or second for the next couple of years. But, he’ll be 32, 33, and 34 over the life of this contract, which is to say that his peak years are likely behind him.
If he is able to maintain his status as a 3 win player over the next three seasons, the contract will be well worth it. The value of a win on the market will probably fall between $4 and $5 million – let’s say it’s $4.5 – and so if he was able to continue his recent success he could be worth as much as $40.5 million ($13.5 times three years). But he probably won’t play as much shortstop in L.A., so I’d say that’s a huge stretch. But even if he loses half a win per season starting in ’11 and through ’13, he’d still be worth around $27 million* total. But he’ll have to continue to be healthy for a full season or near it, and he’ll have to maintain his current abilities both offensively and defensively. But if he doesn’t, which isn’t a completely remote possibility, Colletti will have swung and missed.
*(2.5 Wins*$4.5M) + (2.0 Wins*$4.5M) + (1.5 Wins*$4.5M) = $27 million
The contract is not without risk, but which contract truly is? It appears the Dodgers probably got fair value for now, especially considering how thin the shortstop position is this offseason in terms of acquirable talent and that many clubs probably saw him as an option. Perhaps the Giants didn’t want to go too long, i.e. three years, or too rich, i.e. $21 million,  but then I guess who can blame them when they were getting 3 wins above replacement for two years for roughly $2 million a year? More than anything, I think that this contract could be particularly interesting to look back on in a couple of years.
Regardless of how well or poorly he does, I can’t help but be happy for him. He’ll look awfully strange in the Dodger blue. And I’ll always love Uribe for the past two seasons and 2010 especially, but won’t blame anyone for giving him a Booooo-Ribe chant when he visits China Basin.

Also worth noting, the Giants will pick up a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) because of Uribe's status as a Type B free agent.

Stats provided by Fangraphs

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