When thinking about Uribe as a free agent, my first thought was that I'd love to have him back...as a utility infielder. For the last 2 years, the Giants have signed him to be a utility guy, but he's mostly been a starter because of injuries to guys like Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez and ineffectiveness from Pablo Sandoval. He's a good option off the bench because he can play 3B, SS, and 2B and plays them well defensively. But mostly I didn't feel like he should be a starter because his offensive numbers seemed a little underwhelming. Uribe will always be a guy who can hit a ball really, really far but he's kind of an all or nothing guy. He doesn't hit for high average and doesn't walk very much, so his on-base percentage (OBP) is always pretty low. In fact, his OBP of .329 (which isn't very good) in 2009 was the highest of his career. His plate discipline is terrible (he had a pretty bad O-Swing % of 36% this year) and he strikes out a lot.
It should also be noted that Uribe's 2009 was, in many respects, better than his 2010. Sure his HRs and RBIs went way up, but the things that matter like OBP, SLG, OPS, and wOBA all went down in 2010. He had 150 fewer plate appearances in 2009, but still his numbers were better across the board. Coming off of that 2009 year, all he got was a 1 year/$3.25 million dollar deal. Now after a worse year, he's likely to get, at the minimum, a 2 year/$12 million deal. Because of a weak free agent shortstop class and improved home run numbers, the Giants or any other team may be overpaying a player who may already be declining.
But a quick look at 2010 major league shortstops makes me wonder if Uribe is the Giants' best option. Basically, there aren't very many good ones and Juan Uribe was probably one of the top 6 or 7 shortstops in all of baseball in 2010. He was certainly better than any other shortstop available now. The only guy who I'd rather have that might be available is Stephen Drew, and that probably won't happen. Also, there is no one in the minors who is close to being able to contribute except maybe Brandon Crawford, who has a long way to go offensively. Uribe is probably the best option the Giants have unless they can swing a deal for Drew.
The Giants are, like many teams, the victims of a weak shortstop market. Good shortstops are hard to come by and as a guy who has a lot of power and is good defensively, Uribe is an okay option at the bottom of the order. He's just not great, and the Giants should be looking to upgrade offensively at any position they can. But if there are no upgrades, I think I've made myself okay with giving him a 2 year/$12 million deal, but I'd be hesitant to go any higher than that. So there are still many questions. Can he get more than $6 million per year from another team? It wouldn't surprise me. Could he get more than 2 years from another team? Again, it wouldn't surprise me. But as time goes by it's looking the Giants may NEED Juan Uribe. Or else...Stephen Drew? Oh baby. Or more likely, Orlando Cabrera? Alex Gonzalez? Mike Fontenot? Edgar Renteria? Brandon Crawford? Yikes.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated.