I’m not jumping from the rooftops over this big free agent signing of Cuban infielder Hector Olivera. I mean, he sounds great if he’s healthy. I would take 25 Yasiel Puig-type Cuban phenoms if the Dodgers could sign them all. The bittersweet part of the deal is not the potential of Hector Olivera as a Dodger but the sad eventual hot corner relinquishment from slick fielding and likeable Juan Uribe.
We can never forget his two horrendous years at the plate in 2011-2012, but Uribe’s 2013 and 2014 season turned the tables on my feelings and my understanding of how great Uribe really is at third base.
A beautiful homage to one of my favorite current players, Juan Uribe, has been written recently. I’m glad that I’m not the only baseball fan who can appreciate Uribe’s excellent glove work at third even with his less than sculpted physique, his infectious personality and fashion sense, his jazzy bat flips after postseason homeruns and of course his leadership in the clubhouse.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to read Eric Nusbaum’s feature on Juan Uribe which delves into Uribe’s affable presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse as a 14-year veteran.
When I hung out amongst the Dodgers on the back fields of Camelback Ranch this Spring Training, you couldn’t help but notice Juan Uribe laughing and joking in Spanish with his teammates. He didn’t do much stretching during the morning workouts, but he took his swings and enjoyed what could be his last Spring Training with the Dodgers.
Juan Uribe will become a free agent after 2015, and the Dodgers have already set in place his successor at third base with Hector Olivera. Olivera may even be ready in the second half of the season, and the Dodgers could use Uribe off the bench instead using him at third and shortstop as needed. Of course Olivera’s signing also brings up the uncertainty of Alex Guerrero who doesn’t have a position on the team either.
Juan Uribe signs autographs at Camelback Ranch during Spring Training. Photo: Stacie Wheeler
With three infielders on their final year of their contracts (Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins and Juan Uribe), it looks as though in 2016 we could see an infield which will look a lot different than the projected Opening Day infield for 2015. Corey Seager, who is ready to make history as a 6’4″ tall shortstop, will take over for Rollins when ready. Olivera would be at third base, and Alex Guerrero could still even be a possibility at second base should the Dodgers not bring back Kendrick. Or Guerrero could play third base with Olivera at second. OR Corey Seager plays third base with Olivera or Guerrero at short.
It might take Olivera some time to obtain his VISA and become major league ready, but in the meantime the Dodgers have a very promising pipeline which provides depth, potential superstar talent and flexibility in the roster as veterans move on to other teams or retirement.
Speaking of, if Juan Uribe retires the Dodgers should definitely retain him as a coach.
There was a time when I didn’t like Uribe. I wrote about how terrible he was for the Dodgers, and how I actually wished for his release at the time. Of course in hindsight I feel really bad now that he’s become a favorite. Injuries contributed to his awful offense in 2011 and 2012, but then the old Uribe (the one I remember helping the pumpkin colored foes win a championship in 2010) came back. Uribe turned things around, and his defense never wavered.
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I changed my tune, and I then wrote about how the Dodgers should bring back Uribe for 2014. Uribe was part of that magical 2013 team which seemed to be invincible for a stretch that summer. I created silly Juan Uribe photoshops, and I asked then Dodgers social media coordinator Josh Tucker if he could try to get Uribe to sign up on Twitter. Unfortunately Josh moved on from the Dodgers, and he was not successful in getting our favorite player to join the fun online.
Nevertheless, Juan Uribe became a beloved favorite of many Dodger fans, and it’s going to be hard to imagine someone else manning third base.
2015 could be a year of flux for the Dodgers infield with the veterans laying the foundation as the youth readies to take over. It could come sooner rather than later should Uribe get injured or find himself in an extended regressive slump.
Juan Uribe is batting .226 with 7 hits, 5 strikeouts and 2 walks in 33 plate appearances so far this Spring. Uribe hit .311 over 103 games for the Dodgers in 2014, but he only hit .118 during the NLDS against the Cardinals.
Uribe is entering his 15th major league season, and I’m still certain that Uribe has the best glove at third base over nearly anyone in the game. Even though the Dodgers are on to the next best thing to come out of Cuba, Juan Uribe’s role on the Dodgers is still very important.