Sep 4, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Juan Uribe (5) reacts after hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Photo via Newscom

For the Sox, the offseason is now. This is no time to worry about what would have happened if injuries hadn’t hit hard or if John Lackey wasn’t so damn inconsistent or if Tito should have taken Dice-K out an inning earlier on some night in June. It’s time to gear up for 2011. With some key Sox players hitting the free agent list this offseason and others possibly heading to the trading block, we have to be prepared for every scenario.

While the Sox are likely to be in the hunt for the bigger, higher priced free agents, this series will take a look at some cheap alternatives that might be worth a look should plan A or even plan B fall through.

Much has been written about Adrian Beltre and his likely departure from the Sox. His season was tremendous, but that only means he’ll be asking for more years and more money that he could have otherwise. If the years and money are too rich for the Sox brass, I say let him go — And call me when he does something outside of a contract year. There aren’t any real attractive names on the 2011 free agent list, unless Aramis Ramirez somehow decides to decline his $14.6 M player option. However, one name conjures up intrigue in my mind and that is the hard swinging shortstop in San Francisco, Juan Uribe.

Uribe is no household name, but he has been worth 5.9 WAR over the past two seasons with the Giants while playing at second, third and short. He held a 21.7 AB/HR rate this season and a 25 AB/HR rate a year ago. Both years having played home games in the spacious AT&T Park. For a point of reference, Adrian Beltre held a 21 AB/HR rate this season for the Sox. The power numbers are legit and are the biggest asset Uribe brings to the plate. Playing home games at Fenway would, in theory, help those home run totals even more.

Uribe is a pull-happy hitter. He had 62 hits to left this season and a combined 67 hits to center and right. 18 of his 24 home runs went to left. AT&T Park is 339 ft down the left field line and jets straight out to 382 ft in the left-center gap. That makes Fenway’s 310 ft down the line to 379 ft in the gap look like a mighty appealing target. Not only would the Green Monster give Uribe a chance to pop a few more over the fence, but certainly some fly outs would become doubles off the wall. In his home spray chart one can easily see a cluster of fly outs that would have likely been hits at Fenway.

Let’s also consider the type of hitter Uribe is compared to Adrian Beltre. Before his great contract year showing, Beltre was a 25 home run, .265-.275 hitter with a low OBP. A .331 BABIP fixed all that this season. Both Beltre and Uribe are very aggressive hitters who don’t walk much. Both have had ups-and-downs with regard to their line drive rates as well. The chart below shows that once the two hitters step into the batters box, they have quite a similar approach.

(Stats from 2010. O-Sw = percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike-zone)





































One big difference not shown between the two is that Beltre isn’t nearly as pull happy as Uribe.

Defensively, there is no questioning Beltre’s value. He has been one of the best defensive third basemen in the league and the advanced metrics support that claim. However, Uribe is no slouch in the infield. Despite his odd frame, Uribe posted a fine 0.8 UZR at shortstop this season and a 2.6 UZR in 31 plays at third base. There is no way Uribe can match Beltre’s defense, but that’s a big reason why he is the cheap alternative.

Should the Red Sox decide that bringing back Beltre for his price and contract length is not worth the risk — I assume they won’t and think they will be making the right decision by not doing so — Juan Uribe could be a solid alternative. Maybe 2yrs and about $10 M will do the trick (both Uribe and Beltre will be 32 in 2011). No matter what, it will be significantly less money and years than Beltre will demand despite the interesting similarities between the two.

If Uribe were to find his way to Fenway, there is a chance we see him improve his AVG and OBP a bit (maybe .260-.270 and .320-.330) with 25-plus home runs. Not a bad alternative considering the lack of options likely available.