One of the more interesting stories of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2013 season was the reemergence of Juan Uribe as a productive starting third baseman. After signing a three-year, $21 million free agent contract with the Dodgers, Uribe was incredibly unproductive. His slash line the first two years of the contract was a horrendous .199/.262/.289, which made him below replacement level and effectively useless. Ultimately, he was replaced by career minor leaguer Luis Cruz, who played solid defense at third and was surprisingly good with the bat at the end of 2012.
By all accounts, Uribe was no malcontent during his benching. In fact, Uribe is beyond well-liked in the clubhouse and many of his teammates believe he is responsible for bringing a light-hearted atmosphere to the team. Despite knowing that Cruz would be the incumbent at third in 2013, Uribe showed up prepared to spring training, was noticeably trimmer, and reported that he was over some nagging injuries that prevented him from playing well his first two years as a Dodger.
Cruz did not last at third base during the 2013 season, and the Dodgers were forced to turn back to Uribe as the starting third baseman. He played surprisingly well, played stellar defense and, according to Baseball Reference, was worth 4.1 WAR. This is impressive, especially considering that many fans wanted to see Uribe designated for assignment for no other reason than to clear a space on the roster.
Not only did Uribe play well, he became a playoff hero during the National League Division Series after hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning. This happened, of course, after Don Mattingly ordered a sacrifice bunt on two consecutive pitches that Uribe failed to execute. Thankfully, Uribe swung from his heels and sent a moon shot into the left field bullpen.
Uribe is now signed on with the Dodgers for another two years, at a total value of $15 million. Uribe was likely the best option on the free agent market, and his contract does not block Corey Seager from third base when he is ready for a big league promotion. If Seager is ready for 2015, Uribe can easily shift to a utility role, as he has experience with multiple infield positions and even played a little first base in 2013. It remains to be seen how his lateral quickness will hold up as he heads into his age-34 and age-35 seasons, though the fact remains that he can still be a very useful player even if Seager is ready.
The subject of intense fan vitriol before the 2013 season, Uribe was able to change the narrative completely, becoming a fan favorite, playoff hero and sought-after free agent in a single season.
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