For the second time this calendar yr, Luis Urías has been traded in a one-for-one swap for a right-handed pitcher from the 2019 draft class. This time, it’s the Mariners hoping to assist the previous high prospect flip issues round and rediscover the abilities that made him an above-average contributor in 2021 and ’22. In alternate, they’re sending 26-year-old Isaiah Campbell to the Crimson Sox. The righty reliever made 27 appearances for Seattle this previous season.
Urías was a highly-touted prospect within the Padres group within the mid-2010s, however after a gradual begin to his main league profession (an 80 wRC+ and 10 errors in 83 video games), San Diego shipped him off to Milwaukee for a change of surroundings in November 2019, choosing up Trent Grisham within the course of. It was with the Brewers that Urías lastly broke out; after one other poor efficiency in 2020, he posted a 111 wRC+ and 4.4 WAR throughout 269 video games in 2021 and ‘22. Thus, even with Willy Adames locked in at shortstop, center infield prospect Brice Turang knocking on the large league door, and veteran third baseman Brian Anderson becoming a member of the fray in free company, Urías appeared like a key piece of the workforce’s future. His glove didn’t stand out at anyone place, however he might maintain his personal at second, third, and quick, permitting the Brewers to plug him in throughout the infield.
Urías was Milwaukee’s Opening Day third baseman in 2023, however sadly, a hamstring damage stored him off the sphere for all of April and Might. He returned to a extra crowded infield image in June: Owen Miller had been red-hot over the previous month, Andruw Monasterio was hitting nicely in his first week of massive league motion, and Anderson nonetheless boasted a 102 wRC+ on the season regardless of having slowed down after a robust begin. Furthermore, Turang was struggling however nonetheless wanted common taking part in time if the Brewers have been going to maintain him within the majors, and Adames was nearing his return from a brief stint on the 10-day IL. Urías stumbled that month, going simply 8-for-51 with three extra-base hits, and the Brewers – who, at the moment, have been nonetheless in an in depth division race – had little persistence for his struggles. He was optioned on the finish of the month in favor of Turang, who was hitting nicely at Triple-A after a quick demotion of his personal.
Finally, that might mark the top of the street for Urías in Milwaukee. Seemingly missing optimism that he might return to kind on the huge league stage, the Brewers flipped him to the Crimson Sox on the deadline in alternate for 22-year-old
pitching prospect Bradley Blalock. Issues acquired higher in Boston, as one might’ve anticipated. Not solely was Urías additional faraway from his hamstring damage, however his .179 BABIP with the Brewers was sure to enhance. He by no means acquired again to his peak from 2021 to ‘22, however he posted a 98 wRC+ with the Crimson Sox over the ultimate two months of the season.
With that in thoughts, it’s considerably stunning to see Boston hand over on Urías so shortly. After his poor efficiency in 2023, he isn’t going to earn a large elevate in arbitration; the projections at MLB Commerce Rumors suggests he’ll earn the very same $4.7 million wage in 2024. Even when he by no means reaches his full potential, a flexible infielder who can present league-average manufacturing with the bat is a invaluable participant to have on the roster. Think about Whit Merrifield and Amed Rosario, whom our contract crowdsourcing estimates have incomes two-year offers value $16 million and $18 million, respectively. To that finish, it’s not as if the Crimson Sox are overflowing with infield expertise, neither is the free agent market. Rafael Devers has third base on lock, and Trevor Story ought to be the beginning shortstop, however second base stays a query mark. Boston has inner choices, however none with the expertise or excessive ceiling of Urías.
It’s actually doable the Crimson Sox are planning to pursue Rosario, Merrifield, or Tim Anderson, however chief baseball officer Craig Breslow has already spoken in regards to the inner choices, and it seems to be like Enmanuel Valdez is more likely to be the beginning second baseman on Opening Day. Valdez hit for a 102 wRC+ in 49 video games final season, taking part in second base and a sprinkle of shortstop, and presumably, the Sox assume they’ll get related manufacturing to Urías at a pre-arbitration wage. Veteran utilityman Pablo Reyes (one other former Brewer) and speedy shortstop prospect David Hamilton determine to get some reps on the keystone as nicely, particularly the right-handed Reyes, who might function the quick aspect of a platoon with the lefty-batting Valdez.
If the Crimson Sox place confidence in Valdez (or a plan to signal an improve), this isn’t a foul transfer. In any case, whereas Urías is barely a yr faraway from a 110 wRC+, there are causes to be involved about his bat. His greatest ability is his plate self-discipline; from 2021-22, he posted a stroll charge 23% greater than league common and a strikeout charge 9% decrease than the typical hitter. His 0.53 walk-to-strikeout ratio ranked among the many high 20 certified hitters within the Nationwide League. Surprisingly sufficient, his 11.9% stroll charge in 2023 was really a profession excessive, nevertheless it’s troublesome to think about that the best way he acquired there was sustainable. Whereas Urías swung considerably much less usually in 2023, he was much more more likely to swing at pitches exterior the strike zone. In consequence, he posted a career-high known as strike charge and a career-high whiff charge. By and huge, hitters ought to hold the bat on their shoulders extra usually, but when a hitter goes to be selective, he must be selective in the fitting approach. Furthermore, his barely above-average energy fell off too, and even if you wish to blame all of it on his damage (he hit the ball more durable because the yr went on), Urías has developed one thing of a popularity as an injury-prone participant. During the last two years, he has gone on the IL with strains to his hamstring, calf, and quad.
What’s extra, it’s not as if the Crimson Sox gave up Urías for nothing. Seattle has developed a steady of proficient pitchers in recent times, and Campbell was solely expendable as a result of the Mariners are so assured of their pitching depth. Certainly, Campbell, the primary huge league participant born in Portugal since Frank Thompson of the authentic Washington Nationals, put up promising numbers in 2023, pitching nicely sufficient at Double-A to earn the decision to hitch considered one of baseball’s greatest bullpens in July. Though his profession acquired off to a gradual begin because of the misplaced 2020 season and an elbow surgical procedure in 2021, the righty shortly established himself as a reputable huge league bullpen arm after pitching to a 1.57 ERA and three.04 FIP over the past two minor league seasons. His pitches are somewhat troublesome to categorise; what Pitch Data calls his slider, Baseball Savant calls a sweeper, and what Baseball Savant calls a slider, Pitch Data calls a cutter. No matter what you name it, nonetheless, his cutter/slider is a real weapon. He threw it about 38% of the time in 2023, holding huge league batters to a .139 wOBA and .217 xwOBA. The pitch modeling programs agree that it’s a plus pitch, and mixed along with his high-spinning four-seam fastball, which sits 95 and tops out at 97.4 mph, Campbell has what it takes to carry down a spot in Boston’s bullpen. The Crimson Sox have some strong arms on the again finish of their ‘pen, however they want depth, and this transfer helps to perform that purpose.
As for the Mariners, they actually didn’t want Urías – they have already got a pair of right-handed utility infielders in José Caballero and Dylan Moore – nevertheless it’s clear that Seattle likes versatility and reclamation initiatives. Their 40-man roster already options a number of utility males, together with Caballero, Moore, and Sam Haggerty, and Jerry Dipoto is not any stranger to buying bounce-back candidates. A number of gamers to get significant taking part in time in recent times have been on this middling bat/versatile glove mildew, together with Abraham Toro and Josh Rojas, who’s penciled in for beginning second base obligation in 2024.
These names may not encourage a ton of confidence, however nonetheless, the enchantment of a participant like Urías is obvious. In addition to, because the Mariners found this season, the secure selection isn’t at all times so secure – simply have a look at how the Kolten Wong commerce labored out. With that in thoughts, it’s no shock Dipoto went in the other way this time round. The truth is, this might work out fairly nicely for the Mariners, so long as they deal with it just like the gamble it’s. Evidently, the Crimson Sox weren’t prepared to danger a mere $5 million on Urías, and the Mariners might reap the rewards of spending somewhat additional money to take him on. In addition to, even when Urías isn’t something greater than a league-average bat and the weak aspect of a second base platoon, he isn’t a foul pickup, given the dearth of center infield choices on the free agent market.
That stated, it’s value stressing that whereas this could be a productive gamble, it’s actually not the offensive improve the Mariners have to compete with the Astros and Rangers within the AL West. It stays to be seen if this commerce is an indication of the Mariners flexing some monetary muscle by scooping up a participant one other workforce didn’t wish to pay or if it signifies that Dipoto plans to spend one other offseason buying within the cut price bin as an alternative of pursuing dearer choices. Seattle might actually profit from including a nook outfield/DH bat in free company, and so they have the payroll area to take action (they’re about $35 million beneath final yr’s luxurious tax payroll), however this entrance workplace has by no means spent huge on a free agent place participant earlier than.
The Mariners are taking up the uncertainty on this commerce, however in the end, it’s the Crimson Sox who’re taking a much bigger danger. Boston, a workforce with no clear reply at second base, gave up a younger, cost-controlled infielder who was a two-plus win participant as not too long ago as 2022. If Urías bounces again with the Mariners, Breslow might find yourself trying silly in his very first commerce as CBO.
Over the previous 10 years, Urías has gone from unheralded worldwide signing, to high prospect, to huge league bust, to breakout hitter, to reclamation undertaking. That is already the third time he’s been traded in his huge league profession. With that in thoughts, it may be laborious to do not forget that he’s nonetheless younger; Urías received’t flip 27 till subsequent June. Certainly, he’s youthful than NL Rookie of the Yr finalist James Outman. In different phrases, he nonetheless has time on his aspect. His days as a high prospect are far behind him, however his high prospect potential hasn’t disappeared, and the Mariners will hope to assist him attain that ceiling in 2024.