In one of his recent ESPN Insider columns, Buster Olney noted that the Cleveland Indians are still interested in veteran free agent Juan Uribe. Buster thought that the Indians could sign Uribe, or someone like him, as early as last October, but the Indians may be done with their free agent signings after agreeing to one-year deals with outfielder Rajai Davis and first baseman Mike Napoli in December.
Uribe bounced around three teams last season, but still put up an above-average season, offensively. His .253/.320/.417 slash is not going to win the Indians a World Series on its own, but Uribe’s above average offense, combined with his solid defense in the hot corner, means he would be an immediate short-term upgrade over Giovanny Urshela, who looks to be the Indians starting third baseman in 2015 unless another player makes a drastic position change.
Uribe is coming off a 2-year, $15 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2014 season. However, that deal was following arguably the best year in his career when he was worth 5.0 fWAR and hit for a .278/.331/.438 slash. Now that he is two years older and on a downward trend, the Indians should have no issue getting him for less than they paid Napoli or Davis.
It is also safe to say the Indians do not necessarily need Uribe right now. He alone is not going to take them to the World Series. And unless he plays the kind of defense he was capable of several years ago, the delta between he and Urshela is not huge. It might not even be worth the $6 million or whatever the Tribe would need to pony up to acquire him.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plan Dealer thinks the Tribe is done making offseason moves. But general manager Chris Antonetti may still be willing to make one more move to shore up the Indians heading into 2016, even if it meant losing a first round pick. If the Indians did want to acquire Uribe they would not need to give up a first-round pick because Uribe was traded mid-season in 2015, making him ineligible for a qualifying offer.