The Case for Juan Uribe (and Others)

The San Francisco Giants subtly revealed that they’re looking for infield depth when they signed former Padres and Orioles infielder Everth Cabrera to a minor league deal on Friday.

Joaquin Arias hit just .254/.281/.301 in 204 plate appearances last year and is hitting an even worse .211/.211/.281 this season. Using WAR to consider his overall offensive and defensive value, Arias has been below replacement level each of the last two seasons.

Ehire Adrianza hasn’t been much better. He’s a career .228/.272/.315 hitter in the big leagues, although he does provide some defensive and baserunning value. According to FanGraphs.com, Adrianza’s WAR this season is 0.0, meaning he has been merely a replacement level player.

Clearly, the Giants need help at the backup infield position. Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Brandon Belt have all played at a high level this season, and no one in their right mind would suggest that the Giants need to upgrade their starting infield. But with Arias and Adrianza, the infield bench has been an issue. The July 31 trade deadline is approaching, so now’s the time to make a move that fixes the problem.

Here’s a wild but not-so-crazy proposal: Juan Uribe.

Even at age 36, Uribe still rates as a top defender. What’s more, he can still hit. He’s batting .267/.322/.404 and has a 103 wRC+ in 245 plate appearances this season. If you think that’s too small of a sample size, Uribe hit .311/.337/.440 with a 120 wRC+ in 404 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season.

Uribe is an underrated, quality big league infielder. His contract expires after the 2015 season so he shouldn’t cost too much to acquire from the Atlanta Braves—maybe a mid-level relief pitching prospect.

He wouldn’t take any regular’s job on the Giants, but he would give Bruce Bochy a chance to rest his regular infielders. With Arias and Adrianza as his current backup infielders, Bochy seems reluctant to give any of his starters a day off. Having a solid player like Uribe on the bench would allow Bochy to rest Duffy, Crawford, and Panik periodically. In his career, Uribe has played 548 games at third base, 917 games at shortstop, and 221 games at second base. And he’s played them all well.

The Giants could take their pick of whom they’d want Uribe to replace. They could cut Arias in favor of keeping the younger, more athletic, and switch-hitting Adrianza. Or they could send Adrianza to the minors and keep Arias, who’s more of a veteran and he’s been with the Giants for many big moments throughout the past few seasons.

Either way, Uribe would be a big and necessary upgrade for this team. The Giants are a quality baseball team, but they aren’t without their holes. Backup middle infield help, and specifically Uribe, would be an easy and substantial upgrade.

But the team could also use help in the outfield, in the bullpen, and in the rotation.

The rotation is log-jammed and the Giants are unlikely to make any moves there unless there’s an injury to a top guy like Bumgarner or Cain.

The bullpen is tricky, too, as they have a lot of moving parts and veteran guys not performing up to their usual levels. Aroldis Chapman would be an excellent addition but the Reds may want too much in return.

The outfield is an area that could be upgraded fairly easily. Angel Pagan is clearly playing hurt, and it’s possible he’s put on the DL as soon as Nori Aoki returns from his leg injury. If that’s the case, Aoki would play left, Blanco would play center, and Pence would play right, leaving Maxwell (and Belt) as the only backup outfielder(s). This means they could really use another outfield bat as a depth piece, as insurance and a bench bat, if you will.

Gerardo Parra of the Milwaukee Brewers would be a great fit. Parra in his career has a demonstrated ability to play strong outfield defense and he has a cannon for an arm. He’s always played well against the Giants and he’s a pretty good hitter to boot. He owns a .277/.328/.404 slash line, although he has always played for teams with extreme hitter friendly ballparks. He has a career 94 wRC+, and this season he has a 128 wRC+. He’s not a great player, but he would be a very strong backup outfielder and left handed bench bat.

He also wouldn’t cost too terribly much, and Hank Schulman suggested on Twitter the other night that Parra could probably be had for Giants minor leaguer Adam Duvall, who’s crushing in the minors this season.

Duvall came up last year and the results were similar to those of Brett Pill and John Bowker. He looked destined, for whatever reason, to be one of those players who’s too good for Triple-A and not good enough for the Majors. He couldn’t lay off breaking pitches down in the dirt. But the Brewers may be willing to take a shot on Duvall, who is, after all, really tearing it up in Triple-A.

Anyway, that’s the case for a few under-the-radar moves. Those tend to be the types of moves the Giants make in years like this, where the team is pretty strong but could use a few tweaks.

In a perfect world, the team would add a dominant starter (or two). But that may have to wait until the offseason, when the crop of free agent starters is as good as it’s ever been. Some of the names that should be available include David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmermann. The Giants seem poised to sign one of those top guys in the offseason, with the money they saved by not signing Pablo Sandoval and with several of their starters’ contracts expiring at season’s end.

So have at it, Giants. Let’s bring Uribe back and let’s get Parra so he can start contributing to Giants wins instead of Giants losses. And whole we’re at it, maybe see if we can get an Aroldis Champan or another dominant reliever without giving up more than we’re comfortable letting go.

The roster is strong but it’s not without its weak spots. San Francisco has a legitimate shot at back-to-back titles and I think the team and the fan base deserve a shot at some rare and elusive odd year magic.

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