Third baseman Juan Uribe and the Dodgers have agreed on a two-year, $15-million… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Hanley Ramirez won't have to move to third base next season. Juan Uribe is returning to the Dodgers.
Uribe has agreed to a two-year, $15-million contract, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been finalized.
But as well-acquainted as the Dodgers became with Uribe over the last three seasons, they can't be certain about what they'll get out of him.
This is what they know: Uribe is one of the best defensive third basemen in the National League. They also know he is extremely well-liked in the clubhouse and won't turn into a malcontent if he is benched.
What they don't know is whether he'll return to them as the hitter who batted .278 with 12 home runs and 50 runs batted in this year or as the one who hit .199 over the first two years of his recently completed three-year, $21-million deal.
Uribe turns 35 in March.
The combination of Uribe's fluctuating performance and advanced age made the Dodgers reluctant to sign him to a multiyear deal. Their previous offer was for a one-year contract that included an option for a second year.
But the Dodgers determined there weren't any other viable options in what was a remarkably thin free-agent market for third basemen. Trading for a third baseman would cost the Dodgers players, something that could create holes on their major league roster or further deplete their farm system.
The only consolation for the Dodgers was that they didn't have to sign Uribe to another three-year deal, which is what he initially demanded.
The move stabilizes the Dodgers infield. The only remaining opening is at second base and that's only if the team decides Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero could use some polishing in the minor leagues before making his major league debut. The Dodgers remain in contact with free agent Mark Ellis about the job.
Uribe's agreement also spares the Dodgers from having to ask Ramirez to move from his preferred position at shortstop to third base.
Uribe went into spring training this year as a projected utilityman. He returned to being the starting third baseman when Luis Cruz faltered.
Uribe was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove, but also had some memorable offensive performances. He hit three home runs in a September game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and hit a two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves that helped the Dodgers advance to the NL Championship Series.