The Hot Stove League is a time during baseball when everyone and their little brother can create terrible, awful, truly terrible (did I say terrible?) rumors involving the San Francisco Giants professional baseball club team. It’s actually really easy to get the wheels of trade speculation moving. The Giants need a third basemen? Hank Blalock could be available. A package of Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson could get it done. Make it happen Sabes! Write, click post, submit.
The trepidation that fans feel during this time of year is partially vindicated. Brian Sabean’s recent player acquisition record leaves something to be desired. And plus, baseball fans can be fretful by nature. Thus, making the HSL a horrific time of year to navigate. It’s cold outside, baseball is gone, and your favorite GM is making some crazy-assed moves. It’s enough to make you want to pull the blankets over your eyes and not leave the house until Spring.
I realize that devoting time to rumors is a little silly. Afterall, maybe 10% of the rumors that are posted during the cold winter months of baseball’s offseason actually ever come to fruition. Still, it’s easy pickins’ to talk about and whether you like it or not, rumors and trade talks are a large part of the offseason. You could argue that trade rumors are all that the offseason has to offer. I’ve made it a point to not ‘rosterbate’ on this site because you can find that anywhere on the Internet, but I think rumors are fair game to talk about.
A rumor on MLBlogs caught my eye this morning regarding a one Mr. Juan Uribe and the Giants:
The Chicago Tribune recently reported that free-agent infielder Juan Uribe might have piqued the Giants’ interest, and club insiders did not deny this. Uribe, 29, hit only .247 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 110 games last season for the Chicago White Sox, but he hit 20 or more homers in three of the previous four seasons.
Juan Uribe isn’t very good and going forward, is probably less valuable than Rich Aurilia. The problem with Uribe “hitting 20+ HR’s” in three of his previous four seasons is that he plays half of his games in a very strong hitters park. The Cell constantly rates as one of the best parks in the majors to pick up a bat in if you’re a hitter. If you adjust for park factors, Uribe’s offense — which has been in decline over the last few years — looks poor.
wOBA* is the linear weights wOBA metric but with park factors applied. This will help us sift through some of Uribe’s performance to distinguish how much his park could be helping him. wOBA* is the same as wOBA in that .300 or less is a very poor hitter, .340 is a average hitter, and .400 or better is a great hitter.
Uribe had a fantastic year in ’04 when he hit a combined: .283/.327/.506 with 23 HR’s. That’s good for a *wOBA of .358 making him an above average hitter. This was also during the time when Uribe was an above average defender at SS, further increasing his value. A SS with a plus glove and above average offense is very valuable, we’ll come back to Uribe’s defense in a bit. From ’05-’08 Uribe had a tough time on offense. He posted scores of .313, .300, .300, and .315. This despite hitting 16, 20, 21, and 7 HR’s during this time span. When you consider the position of SS, a hitter with a wOBA of .315 isn’t terrible and probably pretty close to average or slightly below average offensively — edit: I did a quick wOBA calc for MLB SS’s in ’08 and it worked out to .324. Shortstops, as a bunch, don’t hit like first basemen or designated hitters. That brings us to our next problem with Uribe.
He’s no longer a shortstop.
Uribe, at one time, was a plus-defender at shortstop. From ’04-’06 he accumulated a +20 score by John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, over those years he made 20 more plays than your average SS. That’s not bad defense to have at SS and when you combine it with his average to slightly below average bat (for his position) Uribe had some value. I don’t have Uribe’s plus/minus scores for ’04 and ’05 but in in ’06 he was a +3 and in ’07 he was a -7. Uribe has had some conditioning issues over the last few years that may have affected his defense and mobility at shortstop and before the ’08 season the White Sox went out traded for Orlando Cabrera to play short. A Joe Crede injury moved Uribe from the bench to 3B where he rated as a slightly below average defender with a -3 by +/- in a small sample of 4601. innings played.
Uribe earned $4.5M in ’08 and could look for a contract in the same neighborhood for 2009 and beyond. Taking a wild stab, he could probably sign for a 2/8 deal with an option. If Uribe stays at 3B, he’s barely a replacement level player making him worth $2M on the FA market per year. If he can move back to SS and defend at around -5 runs (which is likely a generous estimate for him) while hitting a wOBA of .315 over 500 PA’s in the NL, he’d be slightly above replacement level and be valued around $3M.
The problem with Uribe and the Giants is twofold. If the team thinks they’re getting “20 HR power” from Uribe, they’ll be disappointed. Taking Uribe out of the Cell and placing him in AT&T (which has tended to be more neutral lately) will reduce Uribe’s already fleeting bat. It’s also not crazy to believe that his defense will continue to slip a little here and there. You’ll also have to debate on whether Uribe should be taking any playing time from Manny Burriss or any other young Giant. Burriss’s upside is very small, but for the future development of the Giants it makes more sense to give him AB’s than it does to give Uribe any.
Giants fans have already seen Uribe before. They saw him during 2008 and his name was Jose Castillo. Castillo’s career line: .254/.296/.379 OPS+ 75 is almost identical to Uribe’s career line: .253/.295/.423 OPS+ 80. If you adjust the lines for the parks they’ve both played in, they are going to be very, very similar. Uribe might not have Castillo’s stone-gloved defense, but Castillo didn’t cost $4.5M per season either. He made under $1M and was gone when things didn’t work out. The usual caveats apply: if the Giants could sign Uribe to a 1-year cheap deal, then I might be interested, but caveats aside, I’m not seeing the appeal.
Comment Starter: Cast your vote: Yay or Nay on Proposition Uribe?