Speaking with Bull & Fox on 92.3 The Fan radio, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona discussed everything from the starting pitching, the Tribe’s chances for next season, the impact of young players on the roster in 2015, and the fact that club president Chris Antonetti may not be done adding pieces this offseason.
The exact quote from Tito came when discussing rookie third baseman Giovanny Urshela’s season in 2015 and his future on the team. After first acknowledging that Urshela was playing through a shoulder injury that he probably should not have been playing with, Francona responded to a question about his thoughts on the future plans at third base:
We would be comfortable letting Gio play third, knowing that still his offense probably hasn’t quite caught up to hopefully where it will be. He’s such a good defender and with our pitching staff it will work. I do think Chris' still got one trick up his sleeve this winter I think he’s still trying, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing. But if we go to camp with Gio and maybe we put a Ramirez over there at times we would be just fine.
Cleveland has been frequently linked to third baseman Juan Uribe this offseason, who is still a free agent and could likely be signed to a very affordable one-year deal as he will start the 2016 season at 37 years old. Uribe spent time on three different teams last season, but he was still worth 1.9 fWAR and maintained a .253/.320/.417 (104 wRC+) slash while playing solid defense at third. Steamer projects Uribe to have a similar year but with a slight offense decline that would put him at a below-average 92 wRC+.
Another name the Indians are thought to be interested in, that was also brought up in this interview, is David Freese. Similar to Uribe, Freese is a veteran third baseman who has still not found a home this offseason. He would likely be a better offensive option than Uribe, but he would come with a slightly higher price tag and he has never been quite as effective on defense (-2 DRS in 2015).
Throughout the offseason, Francona has mostly mimicked whatever the front office’s real plans are. When Antonetti says they are not trading a starting pitcher, Tito says they are not trading a starter pitcher. When Antonetti says they are done making big moves, Tito says they are done making big moves. So, knowing that Francona is obviously in sync with the front office, it is interesting to hear that he thinks "one or two pieces" could be added before the season starts, specifically in the form of a third baseman.
However, as Francona also noted in this interview, it seems everyone would be fine trusting Urshela to give it another go this season. None of the third base options left in free agency comes close to Urshela’s defensive value, and the team has Yandy Diaz waiting in the wings potentially as early as 2016 if he out-performs Triple-A and Urshela struggles.
The entire radio interview is worth a listen (as anything with Francona usually is). It can be found on their own site on CBS, and it is also embedded below. The exact discussion about Giovanny Urshela and the title quote came in at around 19:30.