Improving the 2014 Dodgers: Third Base

October 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Juan Uribe | Leave a comment

uribe_colorado_2013-07-13With all the insanity of the last few days, I’m almost terrified to look at actual roster decisions, because it feels like the managerial decision could shake loose at any second. I mean, it can’t be seen as a good sign for Don Mattingly that he got on a plane back to Indiana just before Ned Colletti fired his bench coach — and which takes him out of town during this crucial period — but then again, who locks in a coaching staff in preparation for a new manager to not be able to make his own choices?

That in mind, we continue the look at 2014 areas of need, which we started with second base earlier this week and which will continue through the rotation, bullpen, and bench…

The Incumbent: I still can’t believe Juan Uribe‘s turnaround. It’s just incomprehensible, going from one of the five most hated Dodgers in history in 2011-12 to lovable, productive, arguably star-level Uribear after Luis Cruz imploded. He was fantastic on defense and in the clubhouse, he was adequate on offense, good enough to be a top-ten third baseman, he provided the single most memorable moment of a game I saw in person this year with his NLDS homer… and I have absolutely no idea how to value him. I really don’t. He turns 35 next year, and what is he? If he gives you another 2013, wonderful, but it’s also not that hard to see him turning back into a pumpkin, and then, yes: Haters are gonna hate. Someone’s going to give him two guaranteed years. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Organizational Options: Just like at second base, nothing at all. Brian Barden made 90 starts for Albuquerque, and it’s not going to be him. Corey Seager is at least a year away or more, and he’s still a shortstop in the minors. I think we’ll always hear people wanting to push Hanley Ramirez over, but the team seems committed to keeping him happy, and it’s not like there’s an internal shortstop pushing for such a move just yet anyway.

Trade Options: Not a lot, with Chase Headley the most interesting name, as he’s been for years. Headley enters his final year before free agency without an extension, but his breakout 2012 (31 homers, .378 wOBA) was followed up with a far more disappointing 2013 (13 homers, .330 wOBA). Of course, that made a whole lot more sense when it was revealed that he’d played through a left knee injury all season long before October surgery. Never tell people you’re hurt, kids!

Everyone seems to want the Dodgers to go after Kyle Seager because he’s Corey’s brother, but there’s little reason for the offensively-challenged Mariners to move him. One idea for a stopgap solution is David Freese, 31 in April. His 2013 (0.3 WAR, thanks largely to lousy defense) wasn’t at all as good as his 2012 (4.0 WAR), and while he’s only headed into his second year of arbitration, the Cardinals may prefer to move Matt Carpenter to third and give Kolten Wong the second base job. If the Dodgers believe that he can be turned around, he’s likely to come relatively cheaply. There’s also rumblings that the Giants would be willing to move Pablo Sandoval, but we’ve been down the overweight ex-Giant World Series hero road before, haven’t we? Similarly, Aramis Ramirez could probably be pried from the Brewers, but you’d have to feel confident in his balky knees holding up at 36. If the Red Sox for some reason keep Xander Bogaerts at third, Will Middlebrooks may be available, but he’s been so inconsistent, and Bogaerts is probably ticketed for shortstop after free agent Stephen Drew leaves anyway.

Free Agent Options: Other than Uribe, there’s almost nothing. Kevin Youkilis? Eric Chavez? It’s a mess out there, folks. The only truly interesting name is Jhonny Peralta, who probably needs a full post devoted to him at some point. He’s wildly inconsistent, with wOBA marks bouncing from .309 to .356 to .301 to .356 over the last four years, and he of course missed 50 games this season with a PED suspension. While he’s mainly a shortstop, he played some left this year and spent most of 2009 & 2010 at third; I wouldn’t say he’s a good defender, but shouldn’t be a train wreck either. Despite all the questions, he’s built himself a nice market by performing well in the playoffs, and considering how many teams could use some offense at short or third, he’s likely to get a decent contract headed into his age-32 season.

The Verdict? This is a pretty ugly situation. I’m still interested in Headley, with the hope that his down year really was related to the knee more than anything, but the Padres will still want a big return and I’m not sure how much I’d really be willing to give up for the single year he has remaining before free agency. I’m not completely against the idea of giving Freese a try, either, but as things stand on October 23, I think bringing Uribe on a two-year deal for something like $10-$12m is the most likely outcome. I still can’t believe I’m even typing those words, but the options here are so thin.

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