LOS ANGELES -- With an intense recruitment, the Dodgers took Juan Uribe from the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday in an attempt to close the talent gap between the world champion they want to be and the fourth-place club they were this season.
No sooner had the 31-year-old passed his physical exam than the Dodgers cleared second base for him by trading Ryan Theriot to St. Louis for right-handed pitcher Blake Hawksworth.
"As we witnessed, he can change a game with one swing of his bat," general manager Ned Colletti said of Uribe, who drove in nine runs in the recent postseason. "He has great enthusiasm for winning, defensive versatility and thunder in his bat."
Uribe signed for three years and $21 million, an offer the Giants reportedly matched at the end, but only after the Dodgers convinced the infielder that they wanted him more. The recruitment included meetings in the Dominican Republic between Uribe and Dodgers coach Manny Mota.
"The Dodgers had a lot of interest in me to have me here and I'm very proud of that," said Uribe. "I hope I can help take the team to the playoffs."
He provides a productive bat to a lineup in need of one since Manny Ramirez returned from a 2009 drug suspension lacking the power that made him a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter.
Uribe won't be going to the Hall of Fame. He averaged only .248 during the season, but he had a career-high 24 home runs and 85 RBIs while earning $3.25 million. Uribe also was the everyday shortstop for the world champion Chicago White Sox in 2005 and hit .400 with four RBIs in the Division Series victory over Boston. A free swinger, Uribe has a career on-base percentage of .300.
Defensively, the 31-year-old Uribe played primarily shortstop for the Giants this year with the highest fielding percentage in the league at the position, but also appeared at third base and second base. He could spell -- and eventually replace -- third baseman Casey Blake or shortstop Rafael Furcal, both entering the final year of three-year deals.
Colletti said Uribe was one of a small group of hitters the Dodgers targeted when their season came to an early end. Negotiations became intense last week, when Colletti said he spoke with Uribe's agent five or six times a day for five or six days. An agreement was reached Sunday, pending the exam.
"That he's been on two World Series champions speaks for who he is and how he's contributed," Colletti said. "He will provide more power than we've been able to account for from the positions he plays."
By acquiring Uribe, Colletti has accomplished his second offseason priority after rebuilding the starting rotation, with the Winter Meetings still almost a week away.
Earlier, Colletti addressed the rotation by re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda and reacquiring Jon Garland. He has already doled out $72 million in deals to free agents since the season ended, with a commitment of $80 million to 12 players (including three no longer with the club) for 2011, when the payroll projects to exceed $100 million.
"When the season ended, we looked at our needs and the names on the free-agent list and thought it prudent to strike early," he said. "We figured who we liked and made a run at them to see if we could get them sooner rather than later.
"This year our specific needs were greater and more obvious than in the past. The free-agent market, in my opinion, was thin. If we didn't get who we needed, we'd be left out. We tried to get them in here as soon as possible."
Colletti must decide by Thursday whether to tender a contract to Russell Martin without knowing whether Martin's healing broken hip will allow him to catch and without being able to cut more than 20 percent from Martin's $5.05 million 2010 salary.
Colletti has been shopping for alternatives, with Jason Veritek, A.J. Pierzynski, Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas on the market. He said he also is open to adding a left fielder (FOX Sports reports Johnny Damon is a candidate) and another pitcher.
By dealing Theriot, the Dodgers avoided cutting him loose as a non-tender and receiving nothing in return. He was acquired from the Cubs at the Trade Deadline with Lilly to replace Blake DeWitt in the infield.
Hawksworth, a 27-year-old right-hander, went 4-8 with a 4.98 ERA for the Cardinals as a multiple-innings swingman, pitching a total of 90 1/3 innings with 37 relief appearances and eight starts. The Dodgers think he could return to his rookie form of 2009, when he was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.