Letting Uribe walk was right call

The Giants, by far, got the better deal with Juan Uribe departing for Los Angeles via free agency after the 2010 season.

At the time, the Giants had to face one point-blank decision — was Pablo Sandoval the third baseman of the future?

Sandoval answered with a resounding yes that echoed through the next two seasons to the tune of back-to-back All-Star appearances which culminated in a 2012 World Series Most Valuable Player award.

With Uribe’s impending departure after the Giants’ first World Series crown though, this wasn’t the perceived scenario. Despite Uribe’s brilliant defensive performance in the 2010 postseason, not to mention the decisive eighth-inning home run in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in Philadelphia, he was still widely regarded as a utility man.

The Dodgers changed that perception in a hurry when they signed Uribe to a three-year, $21 million deal prior to the 2011 season. Some rumblings questioned the Dodgers’ exorbitant spending for a utility man. But history has shown it wasn’t a utility man in which they were investing, but an everyday third baseman.

Despite a dreadful showing through his first two years in Los Angeles, Uribe salvaged his stay with a solid 2013 campaign and, as a result, ended up landing a new two-year deal. All told, the Dodgers have invested $36 million in the now 35-year-old.

Sure, Uribe is a smooth defender with a game-changing presence at the hot corner. But only two words are needed to sum up why the Giants got a better deal with Uribe’s departure. Those two words — Joaquin Arias.

After scuffling through the 2011 season spent rifling through a series of patchwork utility men in Emmanuel Burriss, Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa, the Giants signed Arias to a minor-league deal heading into 2012. He immediately revitalized the Giants infield, bringing a right-handed hitting compliment to the young Brandon Crawford at shortstop while providing a natural feel at every infield assignment with which he was tasked.

Remember, Arias had played just 10 innings as a major league third baseman before landing in San Francisco. But he handled the hot corner like a natural, his crowning achievement coming on June 13, 2012 in recording the final out of Matt Cain’s perfect game with a difficult flat-footed throw that many a major league third baseman probably couldn’t have executed in a typical situation, let alone that one.

And in contrast to the two-year, $15 million deal Uribe signed with the Dodgers prior to this season, Arias signed a two-year, $2.6 million deal with the Giants. And while Uribe is relegated to playing only third base at this stage of his career after some years as a surefire over-the-middle presence, Arias, 29, is in his prime as a versatile and invaluable utility man.

“We have a lot of respect for [Uribe], but he chose to exit … and we won in 2012,” Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said. “So, I’m not sure who made the better decision.”

The answer is clear. The Giants did.

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