Sarah's Take: Uribe's presence will be missed
Removing veteran from clubhouse via trade may mess with Dodgers' chemistry
Following Major League Baseball for 38 years, I understand too well that baseball is a business. People can't get attached to a certain player, since he could be traded from their favorite team.
Last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Juan Uribe -- along with Chris Withrow -- to the Atlanta Braves for utility man Alberto Callaspo, left-handed pitcher Eric Stults, left-handed pitcher Ian Thomas and right-handed pitcher Juan Jaime. Only Callaspo is with the Dodgers. Although rebuilding the Minor League system is important for every team, I believe this trade is a mistake for the Dodgers.
Trading a popular player in the clubhouse is risky at any time during the season, and I feel both president of baseball operations Andrew Freidman and general manager Farhan Zaidi didn't consider the clubhouse chemistry before making this trade. Altering the Dodgers' chemistry at this time for nonimpact players wasn't wise, and it may destroy the Dodgers' chances of going to the playoffs.
The Dodgers feel Callaspo will be a better bench player than Uribe. Whereas Uribe is a free swinger prone to strikeouts, Callaspo has been one of the hardest Major Leaguer to strike out for several years. The Dodgers perceive Uribe was only able to play third base, and Callaspo can play anywhere on the diamond, except catcher and pitcher.
At first, Callaspo, 32, didn't want to come to the Dodgers after signing with the Braves last offseason, but something changed his mind. Maybe being reunited with Zaidi was a factor. Before 2015, Callaspo has played almost exclusively in the American League, including a year and a couple of months with the Oakland A's. Some players who change leagues have difficulty performing at the same level as they are used to in the first year in the new league. I don't think Callaspo will be an exception.
Uribe, 36, would be a free agent after this season, and most people knew the Dodgers probably wouldn't re-sign him because of his age. He was a team leader who was never in a bad mood. His bright smile lessened the stress on other team members. Watching Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu tease the older Uribe made watching Dodgers games more enjoyable. Major League Baseball is a serious big-money business, and yet if players don't remember it's a fun game, they don't do well. Uribe -- nicknamed "Papi" -- helped the Dodgers remember baseball is a fun game.
Coming off his best batting average, Uribe had a slow offensive beginning to this season. This caused him to lose playing time to both Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero. Neither can make the defensive plays that will help the injury-plagued pitching staff that Uribe can. Mired in an offensive slump, the Dodgers need to be more concerned about preventing runs than having a player who might be able to hit the ball out of the stadium once in a while.
Although Withrow hasn't thrown a ball in a competitive game this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery performed last June, he could have been an important piece of the Dodgers' injury-riddled bullpen. At 26, Withrow is a flamethrower, and nowadays Tommy John surgery usually doesn't diminish velocity. Unlike most Dodgers relievers, he had experience in a divisional race and the postseason. The Braves believe he may be the key to this trade.
On Sunday, the Dodgers put Paco Rodriguez with a strained elbow on the 15-day disabled list. They hope they caught his elbow injury early enough to avoid Tommy John surgery, but they're sending him back to Los Angeles for an MRI. The Dodgers have two other left-handed relievers in the bullpen, so they shouldn't be hurt without Rodriguez.
However, any time a team loses a reliever, it's difficult. In June, the team has only one day off with much travel. This schedule could be taxing on any bullpen.
The Dodgers have won only one game since the trade. Coincidence? I think not. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers respond to losing a clubhouse leader.