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A bust for two years, Juan Uribe plays the hero now

Oct 8, 2013, 2:02 AM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four Getty Images

There was a great case for the Dodgers releasing Juan Uribe last winter.

Fresh off a 24-homer campaign for the world champion Giants, Uribe was given a three-year, $21 million deal as a free agent after the 2010 season. It was a move widely panned at the time, and it worked out even worse than anyone could have imagined, with Uribe hitting .204-4-28 in 270 at-bats in 2011 and .191-2-17 in 162 at-bats in 2012.

Things got so bad last year that Uribe appeared in one game and had one plate appearance over the final five weeks of the season. He was healthy and on the active roster the whole time, but the Dodgers refused to use him. His received one start after July 23, that coming on Aug. 14. All signs pointed to him being released over the winter. The Dodgers had Hanley Ramirez starting at shortstop and Luis Cruz penciled in at third, with Jerry Hairston Jr., Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto also on guaranteed deals as utilitymen. Of course, Uribe was making more than any of them except Ramirez, but that still didn’t figure to save him.

But, oddly, the DFA or release never came, and while the Dodgers would have been more than happy to trade him, he was back in spring training with the team. Ramirez’s injury opened up an infield spot, allowing all of the veteran backups to make the squad. Uribe still didn’t play a lot — he made three starts in the first two weeks and totaled 32 at-bats in April — but he contributed in his limited action and overtook Cruz, eventually settling in as the Dodgers’ primary third baseman and still keeping that role after Michael Young was acquired. After a strong finish that saw him collect five of his 12 homers in September, Uribe started all four games in the ALDS against the Braves. He homered Sunday in the Game 3 victory and then, after failing to get a sac bunt down, delivered the big blast on Monday, a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead they’d make stand up.

It’s a pretty amazing turnaround and still not his first. When he originally signed with the Giants, he was forced to take a minor league deal after hitting just seven homers for the White Sox the year before. Consistency obviously isn’t a strength. His four career-high OPSs came in 2001, 2004, 2009 and this year, for four different teams (he started off with the Rockies). The only one of those teams that never gave up on him was the Giants, unless you want to count the Dodgers, too. After all, here he is. Next stop: the NLCS.

  1. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 8, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    I honestly think it had a lot to do with this being his walk year. So many players just seem to “figure it out” in their final year of a contract. Once he realized the money was no longer gonna come in the mail box he put some effort to it. now some team will give him a nice contract just like the dodgers and giants were doing 3 years ago. Then he will just go back to mediocre. Being a Yankee fan I’ve seen it happen a good share. Every fan knows it and sees it around the league, players just phone it in when the dollars start flowing. Not all but some do, it’s not hard to notice I’m sure.

  2. Jeff M. - Oct 8, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    It’s a good thing Luis Cruz ended up terrible and sent to the Yankees. Otherwise, Uribe might’ve ridden the pine for the whole year.

    • bbil2012 - Oct 8, 2013 at 7:18 AM

      It’s also a good thing the person who wrote the article isn’t the Dodgers manager.

    • paperlions - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      I don’t think there was ever any doubt that Cruz was terrible.

  3. earpaniac - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    He was big for the Sox in the ’05 playoffs as well.

  4. Francisco (FC) - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Juan Uribe. The Scourge of the NL East since 2010.

  5. garlicfriesandbaseball - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Yes, and it’s the Giants loss. Huge mistake letting him go. His value wasn’t just on the field but also in the clubhouse. I’m a Giants fan and I cheered as loud as the rest of them when Uribe blasted that homer last night.

  6. MLBlogsbig3bosox - Oct 8, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    He´s consistent! Every 3-5 years he´s good. Book him for 2016-18.

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