Indians officially sign Uribe to 1-year deal

Veteran expected to be starting third baseman for 2016 season

Indians officially sign Uribe to 1-year deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Juan Uribe was inside the Indians' clubhouse on Sunday morning, sitting at his new locker and chatting with some of his new teammates. The only thing remaining for the club to do was make his signing official.

The Indians quickly took care of that final step, announcing that Uribe was signed to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million for the 2016 season. Uribe can earn another $1.5 million in performance bonuses. It was a poorly-kept secret, as the veteran third baseman agreed to his deal over a week ago, but was delayed in arriving to camp due to visa issues.

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The problems are in the past and now the Tribe looks to have its third baseman.

"I'm a guy that likes to report and to be at Spring Training a week before everybody shows up," Uribe said through a translator. "It was kind of a little bit hard for me, but it's something that I wasn't able to control. I'm now here and I'm going to do the best that I can to try to be ready."

Uribe, who will turn 37 on March 22, is expected to take over at the hot corner at the outset of this season. In the second half last year, Giovanny Urshela held that role as a rookie, but his offensive showing was hindered by an assortment of health issues. With Uribe in the fold, Cleveland has a little more roster flexibility if it chooses to send Urshela to Triple-A Columbus to open the season.

Manager Terry Francona acknowledged that Urshela could indeed start the year in the Minors.

"We were trying to get [Uribe] all winter," Francona said. "We thought that, one, trying to slow down Gio for a little bit and letting him develop, we were good with. Actually, the things we said all winter were very honest. If Gio was our third baseman, we were OK with that. If Gio has to go to Triple-A to get some at-bats, we would be OK with that, too, because we think it'd be good for him."

Last season, Uribe hit .253 with 14 home runs, 17 doubles and 43 RBIs in 119 games between stints with the Dodgers, Braves and Mets. He performed better against left-handed pitching (.273 with an .893 OPS) than right-handed pitching (.246 with a .683 OPS) in his 397 plate appearances, while offering slightly above-average defense at third base.

Urshela hit .225 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 81 big league games last season, and posted a .192 average with a .559 OPS over the final two months while dealing with a shoulder issue.

"Gio wasn't quite ready offensively when he got to Cleveland last year," Francona said. "And the fact that he was beat up didn't help, but he catches the ball so good that you can kind of live with it. But, him developing some more at the plate would be good, because I think we all think we have an everyday third baseman."

Over the course of 15 seasons in the Majors, Uribe has suited up for the Rockies, White Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Braves and Mets, winning World Series rings with Chicago in 2005 and San Francisco in '10. Along the way, the veteran infielder has gained a reputation around the league as a strong presence and leader in the clubhouse.

Uribe hopes to build on that reputation with the Indians.

"I want to thank God first that he gave me the opportunity to sign with the Indians," Uribe said. "The other thing I appreciate is the Indians for being interested in me since the first day that they knew that I was available in free agency. I appreciate the Indians for the opportunity to be part of this."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.