Cleveland Indians: What To Do With Giovanny Urshela

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

What Should the Cleveland Indians Do With Giovanny Urshela?

Last week the Cleveland Indians signed veteran free agent Juan Uribe to a one-year deal to presumably be the starting third baseman for the 2016 season, a position that Giovanny Urshela occupied for much of the second half of 2015. So the question arises, what do the Cleveland Indians do with Urshela now that Uribe is in the fold?  Do they keep him on the big league roster as a backup/platoon player? Do they send him to Triple-A to work on his offense that was clearly lacking in 2015? 

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The most likely course of action will be Urshela heading to Triple-A Columbus to open the season.  He still has two minor league options remaining so there’s no issues there, plus as mentioned, Urshela really struggled offensively at the big league level in 2015 so some more work can’t hurt.  One potential snag with sending Urshela to Triple-A is the presence top third base prospect Yandy Diaz.  Diaz has only played two years in the Tribe organization since coming over from Cuba, but he’s already turning heads with his offense and plate discipline. He finished last year with the Clippers and the plan is likely for him to begin 2016 there as well.  That gives the Clippers two starting third basemen, so how is time split up there?

Should Urshela Play More Positions?

The easy answer is a 50-50 split with the other filling in as the designated hitter when not at third base, allowing both young hitters to play every day.  However, another option would be expanding each players’ position versatility. Both Diaz and Urhsela have only ever played third base since joining the Indians’ organization; however, Diaz is a guy many scouts feel could handle the outfield and possibly second base.  Urshela is a bit trickier to find a spot but he’s so good defensively at third base that a move across the diamond to first base shouldn’t be hard and a bolder course of action could be to try him at second base at times to see if he can’t expand his worth as a potential utility infielder should the need arise in Cleveland.  Urshela has very good range at third base so the move to second may not be as difficult as it would appear.  Worst case you move both guys back to third base and designated hitter, but the rewards of getting some more versatility out of both players is very enticing…

Another option with Urshela is to keep him in the big leagues as a bench player.  Juan Uribe will be the starter; however, he’s only averaged 409 plate appearances and 118 games the last three years.  He’s not an everyday player at this stage of his career so plenty of at-bats and playing time should be available for someone like Urshela.  One issue with this scenario though is roster space. Can the Cleveland Indians afford to keep Urshela on the bench if he can only play third base?  The bench already looks a bit full with Roberto Perez, Jose Ramirez, and at least one backup outfielder.  With Michael Brantley most likely out to start the year, the Tribe may find it more important to get an extra outfielder on the bench than carrying a (for the moment) third base only bench bat in Urshela. This then brings us back to why Urshela to Triple-A is the most likely course of action…

In addition to the Tribe possibly carrying an extra outfielder there’s the presence of Jose Ramirez who likely forces Urshela to Triple-A.  Ramirez, a natural middle infielder, played some third base at the end of last season and looked quite good there.  It seems unlikely the Tribe would carry Uribe, Ramirez, and Urshela to start the year, though I suppose crazier things have happened…

Next: Bench Will Be Big Factor For Tribe

At the end of the day, the best course of action with Urshela is really to send him to Triple-A to get everyday playing time. Whether or not he learns other positions remains to be seen but his bat could use some work and he won’t get the playing time he needs riding the bench in Cleveland.  Urshela still brings a plus glove so if the Tribe can get that bat to at least league average levels they could still have a starting caliber third baseman in Urshela.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing him at some point this season with the big league club, it just won’t likely be to start the season (and that’s a good thing).