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You have to like this deal for John Hart and the Braves, who get two potentially useful players for a group of seeming underachievers.
Uribe entered the season as the Dodgers’ everyday third baseman, but had just three starts in the club’s last 15 games before the trade due to his offensive struggles. At age 36, the line between slump and finished is thinning by the out. Still, the Braves should be encouraged that Uribe’s woes come in a small sample and without a definitive red flag.*
* Some would consider his poor batted-ball velocity to be a red flag. That might be the case but 1) we have no idea what his baseline is and 2) there’s always a chance he improves.
If Uribe’s best days with the stick are behind him, he ought to add value in other ways. He remains a quality defensive third baseman with a strong arm, making him an obvious candidate to replace Chris Johnson in the late innings. Additionally, Uribe’s reputation as a good clubhouse presence fits in with the Braves’ offseason M.O. of adding high-character players to the equation.
Of course, Atlanta is taking on more money in order to add Uribe—he’ll make $1.5 million more over the entire season than Stults and Callaspo combined—but that’s marginal in the big picture. Besides, the Braves could have some interesting trade options to consider if Uribe plays well and they fade from contention. And if Uribe stinks? He can be released at any time, same as Callaspo.
The better get for the Braves could prove to be Withrow, who continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery in hopes of a summer return. He’s had success over parts of two seasons, albeit as a power-armed righty with wild tendencies. If the command improves, he could take on a late-inning role. A career in middle relief seems more likely, but he’s not far off from the perfect-world outcome for Jaime.
Obviously there is a chance Uribe is finished and Withrow never returns to form. Even then, what did the Braves lose? Some money and a few players whose futures in Atlanta were in doubt already. The act of questioning every move authored by Hart served as fun winter entertainment, but should end here. This deal won’t change the Braves’ fortune; it could, however, make them a better team now and later at little cost.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Acquired INF-S Alberto Callaspo, LHPs Ian Thomas and Eric Stults, and RHP Juan Jaime from the Braves in exchange for 3B-R Juan Uribe and RHP Chris Withrow. [5/26]
Since becoming the Dodgers’ general manager, Farhan Zaidi has leveraged his team’s financial might by trading for well-paid veterans, gambling in the free-agent market, and buying draft picks. In short, Zaidi has been creative and opportunistic and a wee bit predatory in nature. Here, though, Zaidi is not in his assumed L.A. role. Rather this trade resembles one he might have negotiated in Oakland. That’s because the Braves, not the Dodgers, are absorbing dollars in exchange for a better return.
You can understand Zaidi’s motivations behind moving Uribe. The Dodgers have Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero to slot in at the hot corner, with capable backup and emergency options (Enrique Hernandez and Darwin Barney), and two legitimate Third Baseman of the Future candidates coming soon, in Corey Seager and Hector Olivera. In addition to freeing funds for reallocation, trading Uribe prevents a messy clubhouse drama involving a popular player. Viewed from a sentimental perspective—i.e. not Zaidi’s—you could see this as a move designed to reward Uribe’s service by sending him to a team where he can play more often.
However reasonable the theory of trading Uribe seems, the reality of the trade is tough to get excited about. Blame it on a lack of leverage or time or suitable trade partners, but in return for Uribe and Withrow the Dodgers received four players who are waiver-wire candidates.
In fact, two of the new Dodgers have ties to the waiver wire already. Designated for assignment on Wednesday, Stults should report to Triple-A and serve as organizational depth after he clears waivers. Meanwhile Jaime, a more intriguing talent than Stults, passed through waivers untouched in mid-April. His most marketable attribute is his elite arm strength, which allows his fastball to sit in the upper-90s. Yet even that heat is undercut by his horrendous command. The Dodgers’ instructors can take their best shot at helping Jaime throw more strikes—Lord knows the Braves did—but him becoming the new Withrow would register as a massive developmental win.
Neither Callaspo nor Thomas qualifies as a prize pig, either.
Callaspo’s struggles from 2014 have carried over, as he hit .206/.293/.252 in 123 plate appearances with the Braves. Nonetheless, PECOTA projects Callaspo to outhit Uribe (by nine points of True Average) heading forward, though his fit on the L.A. roster is unclear. He switch hits and can play first, second, or third base, sure, but who does he play over—Turner? Guerrero? Howie Kendrick? Adrian Gonzalez? Please. Odds are Callaspo will be on the move again in the coming weeks.
Then there’s Thomas, who is likewise lost in a numbers game. The Dodgers have Adam Liberatore, J.P. Howell, and Paco Rodriguez in their big-league bullpen, with Daniel Coulombe and Chris Reed in Triple-A. That’s not including Eric Surkamp (recently acquired in a minor trade), David Huff, or Ryan Buchter, who coincidentally made his big-league debut last season with Atlanta. Thomas is a former indy-ball find with a solid changeup and deceptive mechanics. Unfortunately, that combination has yet to result in big-league success. There’s not a high ceiling here to begin with, so Thomas will have to make the most of whatever opportunity he receives in order to stick in the system for long.
On the bright side, Zaidi did save some cash through the trade, albeit a trifling amount. Barring a developmental miracle, there’s little in the way of long- or short-term value to be had here. As a result, you have to consider this trade a loss for Zaidi and the Dodgers—even if only a minor one.
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