Uribe on radar as Tribe looks to add

Veteran 3B still on free-agent market along with Freese

February 17th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The majority of the Indians' roster already has arrived in Arizona, getting a head start on workouts before Sunday's scheduled reporting date for the full squad. There is a strong chance that Cleveland will look to add to its roster, as well.

As Spring Training gets underway for the Tribe, the team continues to monitor the remaining free agents on the market. That includes veteran third baseman Juan Uribe, who has been linked to the Indians in various reports for the past two months. Indians general manager Mike Chernoff was not willing to go into specifics about the club's ongoing search for offensive help.

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"We're looking at everyone," Chernoff said on Wednesday. "If there's a player out there who we think can help us, we're looking at him."

The position that makes the most sense to address at the moment is third base, where Uribe or free-agent David Freese could fit on a one-year contract. The Indians are considering such a move because of the uncertainty surrounding young third baseman Giovanny Urshela. Last year, Urshela performed well defensively, but looked overmatched at the plate in the Majors while fighting through a variety of health woes.

Cleveland could start the season with the 24-year-old Urshela at third base, knowing that his defense is strong and rolling the dice that he will hit better than last year (.225 average with a .608 OPS in 81 games). The other option would be to sign a free agent and send Urshela to Triple-A Columbus, where Cleveland could monitor his progress, hope to get his confidence up and aim for a midseason promotion.

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Uribe, who will turn 37 on March 22, is a veteran of 15 seasons and has suited up for the Rockies, White Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Braves and Mets in his career. Last season, Uribe turned in a .253/.320/.417 slash line with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 119 games. In the field, he had one Defensive Run Saved to go along with a 2.3 UZR/150 in 733 1/3 innings at third base.

Over his career, Uribe has had relatively even platoon splits, but he has fared better against left-handed pitching in recent years. He hit .272 (.893 OPS) against lefties last year, compared to .246 (.683 OPS) against righties. If the Indians were to add Uribe to the fold, he could share time at third with switch-hitting utility man Jose Ramirez, who has fared better against right-handed pitching.

The Indians also have monitored the market for the 32-year-old Freese, who is best known for his heroics with the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series. Last year, Freese hit .257/.323/.420 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 121 games with the Angels. Defensively, he had minus-two Defensive Runs Saved and a 0.6 UZR/150 rating in 913 2/3 innings at third base.