Julio Urías dominated once again for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night, lifting the team to a 4-0 victory on the road. Despite some concerns earlier in the year, the left-hander has turned it all around and is having what could end up being a career year.
In 23 starts, Urías is 13-6 with a 2.40 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 0.98 WHIP and 123 strikeouts across 127.2 innings. Last year was his best campaign to date, but he fizzled out in the playoffs due to fatigue. That doesn’t take away from his 20-3 record, 2.96 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 1.02 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 32 starts (185.2 innings).
What’s even more impressive is that these represent the only two years in which Urías was a full-time starting pitcher. He made 10 starts in the shortened 2020, but was largely used in relief that postseason. Long story short: the 26-year-old is becoming an ace.
Urías is under club control through the 2023 season, but perhaps the Dodgers need to think ahead and focus on a contract extension. Walker Buehler is out for the 2022 season and could be out for most of 2023 if he has to undergo his second career Tommy John surgery (we’re still waiting on the type of surgery he’s getting).
Throw in the Clayton Kershaw back injury/overall struggles with longevity and looming free agency yet again, and the Dodgers might need to secure Urías to keep some stability in the starting rotation.
Projecting a Julio Urías contract extension for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Urías’ contract situation is a complicated one, though. Despite two ace-like performances as a starter and a rock solid rookie year, the lefty was mostly used as a reliever in 2019 thanks to almost two full seasons lost to injury in 2017 and 2018. He needed shoulder surgery in June of 2017 and returned to action in the tail end of 2018 to pitch in four games as a reliever.
Then you have his postseason track record, which is well beyond his years, like Buehler’s. In 22 games dating back to 2016, Urías is 7-3 with a 3.52 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 22 games (five starts), totaling 53.2 innings. He closed out the 2020 World Series. The kid is the real deal and has many prime years ahead of him.
The Dodgers likely don’t want to disrespect him, but they also can’t exactly bid against themselves in this kind of situation. Urías’ MLB success has been considerable, but he’s pitched in just 129 games to date since debuting in 2016. Perhaps the luxury here, though, is the fact Urías will be 27 years old when he’s a free agent, so a lengthier contract could benefit both sides.
How about a seven-year, $168 million contract? That pays Urías $24 million per year, which would be a coup come the second half of the deal. Additionally, it allows Urías to hit free agency again after his age-33 season, which could get him one last payday. His style of pitching as a crafty lefty suggests he’ll have a longer career than most power pitchers. And the fact he’s yet to eclipse 185 innings in a single regular season, there’s a lot left on that odometer.
In this scenario, the Dodgers reward one of their own, Urías gets long-term security, and the team benefits from the back end of the deal with the pitcher benefitting from the front half. Too much? Not enough? It might be too much because of Urías’ limited track record, and it might be not enough if Urías finishes this year strong and puts forth a Cy Young-like showing in 2023.
That’s why getting ahead of this is likely the way to go.