The Indians designated third baseman Juan Uribe for assignment, according to an announcement from the team. The move clears a roster spot for new acquisition Brandon Guyer, acquired in a trade with the Rays today. Uribe, 37, posted a .206/.259/.332 line in 259 plate appearances for the Indians this year, tallying over 500 innings at the hot corner. The team had signed the beloved veteran to a $4MM free agent deal in February.
FEB. 28, 11:27am: The Indians announced that the signing is official. He’ll earn a base salary of $4MM with another $1.5MM available via performance bonuses, as Jordan Bastian of MLB.com tweets.
FEB. 24, 7:34pm: Uribe’s base salary with the Indians is $4MM, Olney tweets. He can earn more via incentives.
5:31pm: Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that the Indians are working through some visa issues with Uribe, and his contract is still pending a physical.
FEB. 19: The Indians have reached agreement on a deal with free agent third baseman Juan Uribe, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Uribe will earn just under $5MM in the deal, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter.
This match-up has long been rumored, so the reports don’t come as much of a surprise. But there still may be a few days to wait for official word, as several reports suggest that Uribe will need some time to obtain visa clearance. He still needs to complete a physical to make the deal official.
Uribe will turn 37 in March, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. Coming off of a pair of rough campaigns in 2011-12, Uribe has run off three consecutive stellar efforts. Over 1,227 plate appearances since, he owns a .281/.329/.432 slash with 35 home runs.
Of course, Uribe is known more for his glove — and dynamic clubhouse presence — than for his bat. Once a high-quality middle infielder, Uribe has settled in as a top-shelf third baseman in recent seasons. Both UZR and DRS saw a dip in his glovework last year, but he was still a firmly average option and may well have some big contributions left.
It remains to be seen just how heavily Cleveland will rely on the veteran, but odds are he’ll see plenty of action. The club still has 24-year-old Giovanny Urshela on hand, of course, and he showed a quality glove at the hot corner last year. He wasn’t much use at the plate, but did have a strong 2014 campaign at Triple-A and could certainly have some growth ahead of him.
A strict platoon between Uribe and Urshela doesn’t make immediate sense given that both hit from the right side. It could be, then, that the younger player heads off for more seasoning to start the year. Jose Ramirez, a switch-hitter who’s generally been better against right-handed pitching, could be the more promising part-time tandem piece for the Indians — particularly since he doesn’t figure to spend much time filling in up the middle with Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis locked into everyday roles.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Juan Uribe’s career isn’t over yet, as evidenced by his $4MM agreement to play for the Indians this season. When Uribe does hang up his glove, however, he’ll have no shortage of post-playing opportunities — Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that at least three teams have offered to hire the highly-respected veteran infielder for jobs in their organizations. Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Indians skipper Terry Francona tells reporters (including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian) that he’s comfortable with his team’s roster and that he “won’t be pushing [president of baseball ops Chris Antonetti] to do something” about adding a free agent outfielder. Cleveland has question marks in the outfield all winter, even before yesterday’s news about Abraham Almonte’s 80-game PED suspension. The Tribe has several veteran and minor league outfielders in camp, though few solid options, especially with Almonte suspended and star Michael Brantley on the DL to begin the season.
- The Tigers will have scouts on hand at Tim Lincecum’s yet-to-be-scheduled showcase, ESPN.com’s Katie Strang reports. Detroit will be one of many teams on hand to see the former Cy Young winner throw, as at least 20 teams have reportedly already looked at Lincecum’s medicals. The Tigers have a projected rotation of Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey with Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Shane Greene in contention for the fifth spot. While there are certainly some question marks here, it could be tough for Lincecum to find the MLB deal he’s seeking in the Motor City.
- An MRI revealed that Anibal Sanchez has mild inflammation in his right triceps, the Tigers told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck). The righty hasn’t thrown since Monday and his first spring start could be delayed, though the club is hoping to have him throwing again within a few days. ” I guess you’re always cringing when it involves one of your starting pitchers,” manager Brad Ausmus said, though the problem is considered to be fairly minor.
- A chance airport meeting between Twins GM Terry Ryan and Ryan Sweeney’s agent may have led to Sweeney’s minor league deal with the club, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. The veteran outfielder was cut by the Cubs last spring and, despite interest from at least a couple of teams, Sweeney decided to sit out the 2015 season in order to let some nagging injuries heal. (Sweeney also had the benefit of still receiving the $2MM owed to him by the Cubs.) “After a while, it was tough, but I trusted that I could get back in the game,” Sweeney said. “I don’t know if your pride gets hurt, but I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I was ready to get back.”
- Fernando Abad blamed his disappointing 2015 season on not playing winter ball last offseason, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. Abad returned to the Dominican Winter League this year and is looking to rebound after signing a minor league deal with the Twins.
Extension talks between the Royals and Salvador Perez are ongoing, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. According to Mellinger, the team has an openness to working something out that hasn’t necessarily been present in the past. For his part, Perez expressed to Mellinger a desire to follow the path of George Brett and Alex Gordon, spending his entire career in the Royals organization. Perez feels a sense of loyalty to the club that gave him the chance to break into the big leagues, but his agent, Rafa Nieves of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, explained to Mellinger that it’ll be hard to offer much of a discount. “He left so much on the table in his present deal,” said Nieves of the five-year, $7MM deal (with three club options) brokered by Perez’s former agents. “He can’t afford to leave a lot more on the table in his next deal. So that’s where we’re at.” Mellinger notes that a rival executive expressed some disbelief that a small-market club could be willing to renegotiate a contract that favors the club so heavily.
Indeed, Jeff Todd and I have noted multiple times on the MLBTR Podcast that there’s significant risk for the Royals, who control Perez through 2019 at a total of $16.75MM via those club options. Perez is one of the largest catchers in baseball, and considering his enormous workload behind the plate (137 games caught, on average, per season from 2013-15), locking in Perez’s 2020 salary four years in advance is a tremendous risk, as there’s no way of definitively knowing how his body will hold up.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Royals second baseman Omar Infante could miss some time early this spring as he recovers from offseason surgery that removed bone spurs from his right elbow, writes the Star’s Blair Kerkhoff. Infante is taking batting practice but isn’t throwing to bases at this point, per manager Ned Yost. As Kerkhoff notes, Infante will be in a battle for the regular second base job this offseason — far from the outcome for which the club had hoped when signing him to a four-year, $30.25MM deal. Infante lost the second base job to Ben Zobrist this past July and will have to beat out Christian Colon for the job in 2016. In his first two years with Kansas City, Infante has batted .238/.268/.329.
- Young third baseman Giovanny Urshela could be ticketed for Triple-A in 2016 following the Indians’ agreement with Juan Uribe on a one-year deal, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. However, Urshela is currently in a holding pattern as Uribe works through visa issues that have delayed his arrival in the United States and, subsequently, his physical exam with Cleveland. Urshela batted just .225/.279/.330 in 288 plate appearances with Cleveland last season, but he drew strong marks for his glovework and has batted .275/.326/.473 in 514 PAs at the Triple-A level. Manager Terry Francona says he’s already spoken with Urshela about the way in which the Uribe deal could impact him, though Francona declined to get into specifics, as Uribe’s deal hasn’t been finalized.
- Anibal Sanchez underwent an MRI this week after experiencing discomfort in his triceps during a mound session on Monday, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. However, the Tigers right-hander was relieved to learn that the MRI revealed only inflammation and that the injury isn’t tied to the rotator cuff issue that cost him the final seven weeks of the 2015 season. Various injuries have landed Sanchez on the DL in each of the past three seasons, Beck notes.
- In searching for comparables for White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs found that Rodon’s slider bears a striking resemblance to that of Clayton Kershaw in terms of velocity, horizontal movement and vertical movement. That, of course, doesn’t mean that Rodon is on the cusp of becoming the best pitcher in baseball, but it offers a glimpse into the upside that he carries if he can improve his fastball and changeup. Alternatively, Sullivan found that the entirety of Rodon’s arsenal looks very similar to that of Francisco Liriano when looking the pair’s arsenals through the lens of PITCHf/x values. Sullivan concludes that Liriano is a more accessible upside for Rodon if he can make improvements to his changeup in the coming season, noting that Rodon will serve as somewhat of an X-factor in what should be a tightly contested AL Central division.
The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga spoke to a number of GMs to get their takes on how draft pick compensation for his latest piece on Ian Desmond and other players that have been burdened by the qualifying offer. As Svrluga notes, former National Denard Span was able to secure a three-year deal despite playing in just 61 games last season and undergoing hip surgery late in the year. “Whether that pick is there or not is huge,” said Giants GM Bobby Evans, who signed Span to the aforementioned three-year, $31MM contract. “It just comes down to cost vs. benefit: How will that free agent benefit your club in the coming year and years ahead vs. the cost — which is not only financial now. It’s also a prospect. In that way, you have to think of it like a trade.” Svrluga also spoke to Padres GM A.J. Preller, White Sox GM Rick Hahn and Angels GM Billy Eppler, the latter of whom explained that while each club values draft picks slightly differently, every team assigns a monetary value to draft selections and stressed the importance of draft picks.
Some more notes on the infield market…
- With the possibility of a Jose Reyes suspension looming, Rockies prospect Trevor Story has put himself in a position to potentially break camp with the club, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. While service time considerations are often a factor when determining the timing of a player’s promotion to the Majors, GM Jeff Bridich tells Saunders that won’t factor into the team’s decision with Story. “That’s not really a consideration,” said Bridich. “I haven’t thought about that one second. I hope he, and every player, makes all of these decisions difficult.” As Saunders notes, with Story, Daniel Descalso, Christian Adames and Rafael Ynoa all serving as options, the Rox are content with their internal options.
- MLB.com’s Thomas Harding further pumps the brakes on any Desmond/Rockies connection, tweeting that the Rockies haven’t really discussed pursuing a veteran option as an alternative to Reyes, and contact with Desmond’s camp has been minimal, despite prior reports.
- The Mariners are checking in with veteran infielders that could potentially make the club and see some time at shortstop as a backup to Ketel Marte, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Seattle briefly reached out to Jimmy Rollins prior to his deal with the White Sox, Dutton adds. While the Mariners have Luis Sardinas and Chris Taylor as backup options to Marte, neither has much Major League experience, nor does Marte himself, although Marte was somewhat quietly excellent in his rookie season last year.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post feels that the Yankees are making a mistake by relying on Starlin Castro and Rob Refsnyder as backup options to Chase Headley at third base. Neither player has much in the way of experience at the position, he notes, and while Chase Headley played in 156 games last season, he’s played through a herniated disk in his back and would probably be better-suited to play something closer to 130 games per year, in Sherman’s opinion. Sherman lists some options that the Yankees could keep an eye on in Spring Training as teams evaluate players on the fringe of their 25-man rosters. Interestingly, he notes that New York made a minor league offer to Juan Uribe as well before Uribe took a big league offer to serve as Cleveland’s primary third baseman.
- Pedro Alvarez will seemingly wait to if any additional opportunities present themselves during Spring Training before signing, as ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote in yesterday’s blog post (Insider required). Olney texted agent Scott Boras about his client and was met with the following reply: “Waiting for the best situation. As with all valued players the demand increases as spring training begins.” Interest in the defensively challenged Alvarez has been tepid thus far, but spring injuries often do create opportunities for players seeking a home. An injury to a club’s designated hitter or first baseman could create a suitor for Alvarez that doesn’t presently exist.
- The Angels never presented David Freese with a formal offer when the two sides were discussing a potential reunion earlier this winter, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Rather, the Angels shifted focus on picked up Yunel Escobar, whose fairly modest $7MM salary was a key to his acquisition, writes Gonzalez. Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun expressed some bewilderment that his former teammate hasn’t hooked on with a club yet, praising Freese as a positive not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well. “I don’t really know what’s going on,” Calhoun told Gonzalez. “It’s kind of crazy. … Good player, great in the clubhouse. It’s as surprising to me as it is to anyone around baseball.”
Here’s the latest out of the AL Central:
- The Tigers were said to be looking around at depth arms to bring into camp, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links), with former big leaguer Lucas Harrell among those under consideration. But the team’s addition of righty Bobby Parnell likely rounds out the organization’s pitching moves heading into camp, per Beck. It seems that the 30-year-old Harrell will look to catch on with another club. He spent last year pitching in Korea, racking up 171 2/3 innings of 4.93 ERA pitching with 7.9 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9.
- Third base remains an area of focus for the Indians with camp opening, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Cleveland is still monitoring the free agent market, with both Juan Uribe and David Freese potentially under consideration. As Bastian notes, Giovanny Urshela showed the ability to man the hot corner last year, but failed to demonstrate a similar readiness at the plate.
- Meanwhile, the Indians don’t appear to be expecting either Craig Stammen or Tommy Hunter to be ready for Opening Day, manager Terry Francona told reporters including Bastian (Twitter links). It seems that Stammen may actually be slightly ahead in his timeline than Hunter. Of course, he’ll still need to earn a roster spot since he signed a minor league deal.
Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…
- The White Sox and Cubs have both contacted the Rays about their pitching and outfield surplus, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reports. The Cubs’ discussions with the Rays have been well-documented this winter, though the Sox are a new entry among the many teams to touch base with the Rays about their young arms; Levine notes that at least 11 teams have asked Tampa Bay about pitchers. The White Sox have needs at both corner outfield positions and at the back end of their rotation. The all-lefty trio of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will headline the Pale Hose rotation, while John Danks, Jacob Turner and Erik Johnson are the current competitors for the fourth and fifth starters’ jobs.
- The White Sox went on a seven-game winning streak from July 23 to July 29 last season, though this hot stretch right in the leadup to the trade deadline didn’t really change the team’s plans, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. The decision to keep Jeff Samardzija at the deadline, for instance, wasn’t made because of the win streak; “nothing materialized and nothing was done in principal” in terms of a possible Samardzija trade, though the Sox were discussing him with teams. “Those [talks] don’t necessarily happen July 27, 28, 29 and 30th. Those are going on for several weeks,” Hahn said.
- The Indians have offered Juan Uribe around $3MM, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports as part of his latest subscription-only column. Uribe has been linked to the Tribe and a few other teams, though salary will depend on whether or not Uribe is slated for a starting or backup role. Cleveland seems likely to use Uribe and Giovanny Urshela in a time-share at third, so Uribe wouldn’t get the lion’s share of playing time.
- Speaking of Urshela, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the Indians’ incumbent at the hot corner, noting that it’s too soon to write off the 24-year-old as an all-glove, no-bat player. While Urshela’s minor league numbers aren’t impressive overall, he did post an .825 OPS over 528 PA at Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Pluto notes that Urshela battled injuries in 2015 and was probably promoted too quickly. Urshela’s glove is so impressive that he can be a very useful everyday player if he hits even just a little, though Pluto notes that there are enough questions surrounding Urshela that the Tribe is justified in looking for an upgrade, especially in a season when team plans to contend.
- The Indians are leaning more towards Uribe than David Freese to address their third base need, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes as part of a reader mailbag. Freese entered the winter as the best of a fairly thin free agent third base market but there’s been very little news about him this winter, aside from some talks with the Angels before they acquired Yunel Escobar.
- Randy Rosario was something of a surprising addition to the Twins’ 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft, but as Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, the Twins are impressed by the young left-hander’s promise. Rosario, 21, missed much of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning to pitch 53 2/3 innings in A-ball last season. The Dominican Republic product signed an $85K contract with the Twins in 2010.
Veteran third baseman Juan Uribe remains available in free agent as the market for infielders has continued to move slowly. He’s been a consistently productive player since turning around his fading career in 2013, putting up a .281/.329/.432 slash while averaging about a dozen home runs over 400 plate appearances annually since that time. And while defensive metrics didn’t view him as a huge contributor with the glove last year, as they had in the two prior seasons, Uribe factors as a positive in the field. Of course, he’s also closing in on 37 years of age.
Here’s the latest:
- The Giants have had talks with Uribe’s camp, says Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Twitter link). San Francisco obviously doesn’t have a starting role available, but could conceivably use Uribe at third, second, and even first. But the asking price remains too steep for San Francisco’s liking, Olney says.
- As far as Uribe’s negotiating stance goes, Olney adds in another tweet that his reps are telling teams that they are willing to “discuss salaries at two different scales.” The ask would be higher if the team proposes to use him as a regular, as opposed to a bench piece. With the Indians said to be looking at Uribe as a fairly significant contributor, it isn’t clear exactly how this line of thinking will impact the ultimate results.
- The Yankees ought to consider making a play for Uribe to occupy the roster spot that might have gone to injured youngster Greg Bird, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests. New York hasn’t done so as of yet, Sherman notes, but ought to pursue a deal with the versatile defender. With Alex Rodriguez functioning as a bat-only player — a point which GM Brian Cashman made abundantly clear — Sherman suggests that flexibility is a higher need than another power hitter in the infield mix.
Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News takes an interesting look back at what was perhaps the first modern deployment of the opt-out clause. Then-Twins GM Andy MacPhail utilized a player option to lure top starter Jack Morris to the organization. “I thought, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” says the current Phillies president. “I was already committed to giving him $9 million over three years. He could pitch great and leave or he could like it and stay the whole time. Either scenario, I would’ve taken. Nor did I get any criticism at the time.” Things couldn’t have worked out much better, as it turns out, as Morris helped lead Minnesota to a World Series before departing. If you’re interested in some more reading on the history and development of the now-pervasive opt-out, check out this piece from MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes.
Here are some notes from the game’s central divisions:
- Former Pirates corner infielder Pedro Alvarez is more than just a DH, his agent Scott Boras tells MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link). Alvarez still has the skills and athleticism that got him to the hot corner in Pittsburgh in the first place, says Boras, who rejects the idea that he’s a bat-only player “based upon a short sample size or a moment in his career where he’s had an irregularity in throwing.”
- The Indians are still pursuing free agent third baseman Juan Uribe, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. We’ve heard consistent chatter on that connection for quite some time, but it still isn’t clear whether Cleveland will (or will need to) push up its offer to get something done. There have also been suggestions that the club may be prepared to wait to see who’s left without a seat when the music stops this winter.
- The Brewers have paid a lot of attention to center field this winter, Tom Haudricourt writes for Baseball America. In the immediate term, the organization will hold “an open competition,” per GM David Stearns, with veterans Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Eric Young Jr. looking to hold off youngsters Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. Of course, Santana is seen more as a corner outfielder in the long run, but the club will presumably dedicate most of its playing time there to Ryan Braun and Khris Davis. As for Broxton, Stearns had praise for him as a near-term and future option. “He gives us increased depth in the outfield and has a chance to play center field,” he said. “We think Keon has a chance to be a real asset to our team, beginning this year.”
The Indians entered the offseason with a real need in the outfield, writes Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com. The additions of Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis won’t have the impact of a Yoenis Cespedes, but they should help improve the club’s floor. Free agent Juan Uribe might be the next target. The club still lacks a dynamic bat like Manny Ramirez which may force them to manufacture runs.
Here’s more from Cleveland:
- Members of the Indians rotation are happy to have remained in town, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. The entire unit will cost less than $15MM despite containing stalwarts like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar. The team is in a position to once again possess the top rotation in the American League which could help to mitigate the aforementioned lineup weakness.
- The Indians are wary of qualifying offer players in part because they possess the 15th overall pick, writes Hoynes. However, money is the main reason why the team hasn’t signed any of the qualifying offer players on the market. The only one to sign cheaply, Howie Kendrick, does not play a position of need for Cleveland. For what it’s worth, Dexter Fowler is still available and would be a good fit for the Indians at the right price. I also see Austin Jackson, David DeJesus, Marlon Byrd, Shane Victorino, and Alex Rios as possible bargain targets for the Tribe.
- Fans may be frustrated by the lack of offensive overhaul, writes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. However, they should be happy with the overall state of the roster. Eleven core members are under some form of control through at least 2018. Many can be kept at potential bargain prices through 2021. The amount of club control at team friendly rates means the Indians won’t be forced into trading away much talent.