Forever etched in Los Angeles Dodgers fans’ minds is pitcher Julio Urias celebrating by himself on the mound after he struck out the final batter of the 2020 World Series to deliver franchise its first championship in 32 years.
However, the young lefty still doesn’t have a definitive role on the pitching staff. He’s still treated as a hybrid option, having pitched in a total of 74 games since debuting in 2016, with 38 of those being starts. Though he’s mostly served as a reliever in the playoffs (three starts vs 15 relief appearances), he’s mainly used as depth (wherever needed) during the regular season. At least that’s what it feels like.
Heading into 2021, we have no idea who is going to snag the final spot in the rotation. We can assume Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer and David Price will be in there, but who will round it off? Urias will likely be battling it out with Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, with the former two likely being featured as the marquee matchup.
And we can’t help but ask: if May wins the job, should the Dodgers explore Urias’ value on the trade market?
According to manager Dave Roberts, May hit 101 MPH on the radar gun at Spring Training on Wednesday. He threw some live batting practice and was bringing the heat.
Additionally, if we learned anything about May since his debut in 2019, it’s that he’s better as a starter. That’s simply what the eye test tells us, and it makes sense because he came up in the Dodgers’ system as a starter.
As for Urias, he’s much more effective as a reliever, which is great for LA, but how many teams do you think would love to acquire him in a trade and slot his left arm in the rotation? He’s still a good starter (3.61 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 165 strikeouts in 38 starts totaling 172 innings) despite his stats in relief (2.15 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 67 strikeouts in 67 innings) being much better.
Throw in the fact the Dodgers have fellow left-handers Victor Gonzalez, Scott Alexander, Garrett Cleavinger and Alex Vesia on the 40-man roster (in addition to Kershaw and Price in the rotation) and there’s really no shortage of lefties, assuming Vesia and Cleavinger manage to carve out some sort of role.
And then you have his contract situation. Urias, who is just 24 years old, is under club control through 2023 and will be making $3.6 million in 2021. If the Dodgers plan to re-sign Kershaw and give Buehler a big extension, perhaps trading Urias for value elsewhere could be a good idea. Why? Because Price is likely in town through 2022 and Bauer through 2023. May and Gonsolin, on the other hard, are pre-arb eligible and aren’t making much of anything and they’ll be here for a while.
We know it’s always good to have a surplus of pitching, but one could argue the Dodgers need infield and outfield depth after watching a number of players leave this offseason, with potentially more to come next offseason.
Then again, Urias is top-notch insurance in the event one of Kershaw, Price or Bauer aren’t with the team after 2021. We’re certainly not advocating for a trade or recommending the Dodgers act in haste, but it wouldn’t be insane to see what another team desperate for starting pitching might be willing to cough up for Urias if the Dodgers plan to use him as a reliever/depth starter again this season.
They’ve cleaned up on the trade market before. They could do it again with ease here.