The Dodgers signed Juan Uribe to a three-year $21 million contract today, and the Giants responded by inking Miguel Tejada to a one-year $6.5 million contract (plus incentives).  The moves strengthens the Dodgers and weaken the Giants in 2011.  After that, the moves are better for the Giants.

In fact, the thing that strikes me most about these two deals (and also the Giants’ decision to re-up Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million, which I discuss below) is how much the market for baseball talent has improved compared to the last two offseasons, at least as far as the players are concerned.

Replacing Juan Uribe with Miguel Tejada is definitely a down-grade for the Giants.  Uribe will be 32 next year, while Tejada will be 37.  Since both players will be over age 31, you have to expect that both players will decline offensively in 2011.  However, I would expect Tejada to decline more, since he’s considerably older, and Uribe had higher OPS numbers the last two seasons.

More importantly, Uribe is a better and more flexible fielder than Tejada.  Fangraphs likes Uribe’s defense more than Tejada’s at both third and shortstop, while Uribe can also give a team above average defense at second base, a position Tejada hasn’t played, not even once, in his long major league career.

In short, I’d rather have Uribe in 2011.  That being said, Uribe cost the Dodgers a lot more, and I don’t expect Uribe to hit nearly as well in Dodgers Stadium in any of the next three seasons as he hit in AT&T Park the last two seasons.

Tejada is essentially a place-holder for 2011.  Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have anyone who Tejada is holding a place for.

The Giants’ top SS prospect, by far, is 21-year-old Venezualan Ehire Adrianza, who hit .256 with a .682 OPS (but a respectable-for-a-shortstop .333 on-base percentage) at Class A+ San Jose in 2010.  Given the reports of strong defense, there’s no reason to think that Adrianza isn’t still the Giants’ shortstop of the future, but his 2010 offensive numbers don’t suggest he’s going to be ready in 2012, unless he takes a BIG step up in 2011.

You never know with players this young, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that Ehire is going to take the NL by storm in 2012.

My gut feeling is that both Juan Uribe’s and Miguel Tejada’s contracts are more than they’re worth, but it’s awfully hard to say so when Aubrey Huff just received two years and $22 million.  Of course, I thought that was too much also.

The best thing I can say about the Huff contract is that the Giants are generally pretty good about rewarding players who have performed for them.  An example I will provide is Scott McClain, a classic 4-A player, to whom the Giants gave two September call-ups in 2007 and 2008, even though McLain had no hope of being part of the Giants’ future.

At ages 35 and 36, McLain had two fantastic seasons as the starting 1Bman at AAA Fresno.  There was no way he was ever going to help the major league team win anything, but, even so, the Giants rewarded him for his fine AAA performances with September call-ups.

I think there’s value to that, because management is sending a message to every player in the organization, “Perform, and you will be rewarded.”  That’s the way MLB should operate.

If the Giants were willing to give Huff $22 million over two years, why not give Juan Uribe $21 million over three years (assuming Uribe would have remained a Giant if they matched the Dodgers’ offer)?  The obvious answer (aside from the fact that Huff is white and Uribe isn’t) is that Huff got there first.  Once the Giants matched the $22 million offer Huff reportedly received from someone else, they didn’t have the money to give Uribe the same and stay within any semblance of a budget.

For roughly the same money, I’d rather have Uribe for the next three years than Aubrey for the next two, entirely because Uribe has so much more defensive value.  Huff is obviously a better hitter, but he can play only 1B and the corner outfield positions, while Uribe can play 2B, SS and 3B, much more valuable defensive positions and play them well.

It will be very surprising if at ages 34 and 35, Huff hits as well as he did in 2010.  Huff had an even better year for the Orioles in 2008, but he hasn’t been worth much more than the $3-$4 million he earned in 2010 in any of 2005 through 2007 and 2009.

You never can tell, but I suspect 2010 was a last hurrah of Huff’s major league career.

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