Giants bring back Uribe on $3.25M, one-year deal
SAN FRANCISCO – With Juan Uribe back, the San Francisco Giants have a deep infield and options in the outfield, too.
Yet general manager Brian Sabean would like to add a left-handed bat to the mix before spring training, and he didn’t rule out trying to sign free agent Johnny Damon. Adding Damon also would fill a void in left field.
“Infield, outfield, catching, left-handed, right-handed, it’s nothing where there’s a deal imminent,” Sabean said on a conference call Tuesday. “We’re going to be strategic. We’re going to be opportunistic. We’re not engaged with anybody where something’s going to happen over night.”
The Giants and Uribe finalized a $3.25 million, one-year contract after he passed a physical, keeping the utility infielder with the club for a second season.
Uribe was a non-roster invitee to spring training last year but emerged as one of the team’s most steady players down the stretch. The 30-year-old Uribe began the 2009 campaign as a backup but wound up playing in 122 games at third, shortstop and second for San Francisco. He batted .289 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs.
Uribe was a big reason the Giants stayed in the NL wild-card chase well into September. They missed the postseason for the sixth straight year.
“We’re happy to sign him. We do appreciate his versatility and attitude. That’s infectious,” Sabean said. “He deserved a shot to come back here and play as much if not more and contribute.”
Sabean said Uribe could become the starter at third base, with slugger Pablo Sandoval at first and newly signed utilityman Mark DeRosa in left if the team isn’t able to sign a left-handed hitter who played that position.
Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres both can play left field as well but Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy aren’t convinced platooning those two will give the Giants’ lineup enough production to be the playoff team they are counting on being in 2010.
The 36-year-old Damon batted .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs in 143 games last season, his fourth with the New York Yankees. He knows the Bay Area after spending the 2001 season with the Oakland Athletics.
Sabean isn’t sure what to expect in terms of moves and acquisitions over the next month before pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training.
“The market is still developing, which is ironic because of the amount of time that has passed and the date,” he said. “In a perfect world we’d like to have a left-handed hitter as our next move.”
Uribe gives the Giants some important depth. Shortstop Edgar Renteria is coming off right elbow surgery and second baseman Freddy Sanchez underwent left knee surgery.
While Uribe stepped in nicely for the injured Renteria last season, Bochy isn’t ready to name Uribe the starter at shortstop. The skipper is eager to see what a healthy Renteria can do.
“We signed Edgar to be our shortstop,” Bochy said. “I understand the great job that Juan did. He gives us a lot of value in that he can play second, third and short.”
As of now, Sabean and Bochy have discussed the idea of going into spring with Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside as the catchers.
Last month, Sabean said the team’s brass had discussed Posey and decided their 2008 first-round draft pick wasn’t ready to be a full-time catcher in the majors. It sounded then as if he would begin 2010 with Triple-A Fresno to gain more experience, but the team hasn’t been able to sign a catcher to replace Bengie Molina.
Whiteside caught Jonathan Sanchez’s improbable no-hitter on July 10.
Posey hit .325 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs in the minors this year and spent seven games with San Francisco in September.
In addition, Sabean said 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner – another top young prospect – would likely go into spring as the fifth starter. Bumgarner, an imposing lefty and the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft, made four appearances with one start in September in place of two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
To clear room on the 40-man roster for Uribe, the Giants designated infielder Brian Bocock for assignment.