Cleveland Indians: What’s Uribe’s Impact On The Lineup?

Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Juan Uribe hits a RBI single against the Kansas City Royals in the 6th inning in game three of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Juan Uribe hits a RBI single against the Kansas City Royals in the 6th inning in game three of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Where could Juan Uribe hit in the Cleveland Indians lineup and what does he bring to the table?

Signing Juan Uribe may go down as one of the most underrated moves of the offseason. Thankfully, the Cleveland Indians front office fought back the urge to trade one of their front-line starting pitchers for an impact bat. Acquiring a bat would have cost far more than the value of a top-line pitcher who is locked up for the foreseeable future.

Uribe’s on the field contributions will certainly be welcome, especially with his reputation as a high impact presence in the clubhouse. With the Cleveland Indians losing Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn this offseason and Jason Giambi the season before, the need for a positive veteran off the field is more important than ever. Uribe completes that part of the offseason checklist, especially with Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli coming on board as well.

Uribe directly impacts the lineup the most by replacing Giovanny Urshela. While the young third baseman showed he can handle the hot corner with his glove, injuries and inconsistency limited his impact with the bat. Urshela struggled to a .225 batting average over 81 games and 267 at bats. He also struggled mightily in August and September, batting .179 and .194 in those months respectively.

While Uribe is not a headline grabbing signing, he has been consistent at the plate. His career .256 batting average has few peaks and valleys, with a career low (over a full season) of only .234 back in 2007.

What Uribe provides Terry Francona is a deeper lineup than Cleveland Indians fans are used to seeing over the last few seasons. Uribe’s power and at least solid average allow Francona to actually see offense out of the bottom of the lineup instead of double plays and strikeouts. With Uribe in place of Urshela, the Cleveland Indians starting nine could look something like this:

1- Jason Kipnis, 2B 2- Rajai Davis, LF 3- Francisco Lindor, SS 4- Mike Napoli, 1B 5- Carlos Santana, DH 6- Juan Uribe, 3B 7- Lonnie Chisenhall, RF 8- Yan Gomes, C 9- Abraham Almonte, CF

By sliding Uribe into the six hole, the bottom of the lineup has potential. Chisenhall took off in the second half after his move to right field and Gomes is poised for a bounce-back season at the plate.

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Almonte, who probably opens as the Cleveland Indians starting center fielder over Tyler Naquin, is still young and showed flashes in 2015. It is a small improvement, but it also allows better versatility off of the bench with Urshela’s glove and Uribe’s ability to play all over the field.

In the middle of the Cleveland Indians lineup, a Lindor-Napoli-Santana-Uribe stretch should scare pitchers a whole lot more than in season’s past. That should especially be the case when Michael Brantley comes back from his shoulder injury and pushes Lindor back to the second spot that he was so successful in.

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Uribe’s signing bolsters a lineup that is tasked with the support of possibly the best rotation in the American League. Most importantly, Uribe’s signing was not attached to draft pick compensation or clogs up the long-term payroll flexibility of the team. A one year deal like this for an honest to goodness veteran starter is far better than the stop-gap fourth outfielder or super utility types that typically gets added to the roster.

We all know Francona values versatility, and he has not given it up by adding Uribe. What he has achieved, however, is a starting lineup that will be consistent day-to-day, clearly defining roles and providing opportunities for players to have consistent at-bats.

The Cleveland Indians were at their best in the 1990’s when the same nine guys ran out onto the field almost every game. For the first time in recent memory, this lineup can do that without feeling like there is something missing, at least when Brantley comes back.

No, Uribe is not the type of impact bat that free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, or Chris Davis are However, Uribe fits the price tag and the needs of this team. He also did not cost the front line pitcher in a trade.

It is hard to admit from this writer who has all offseason advocated for a trade for Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

Next: Pitchers Carry Heavy Expectations

Uribe’s poised to be a big piece of what the Indians can accomplish in 2016.