On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and starting pitcher Julio Urías avoided arbitration with a one-year, $14.25 million contract for the 2023. season. This is the left-hander's final year of club control and he will hit free agency next winter.
At this rate, that's looking like a foregone conclusion, too, with the manner in which the Dodgers have conducted business this offseason. They let a number of talented players go, including guys like Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner, both of whom were integral to the team's culture.
They've hardly spent any money, presumably in preparation to make a big splash next offseason when Shohei Ohtani hits free agency alongside a monster pitching class. Reports have suggested the Dodgers wanted to lessen the blow by resetting their payroll beneath the first luxury tax threshold so future tax payments wouldn't become onerous. Makes sense.
But that shouldn't have stopped them from discussing an extension with Urías. How busy has the front office been? Andrew Friedman and Co. have been among the least active in the entire league. They couldn't prioritize Urías, who's their most valuable asset at this point?
Time hasn't run out on this front by any means, but there have been no reports/rumors about extension talks, and the business-like news of the two sides avoiding arbitration ahead of a contract year further indicates there's probably been no traction.
The Dodgers are letting Julio Urías hit free agency, aren't they?
Now, some who are optimistic about Urías staying in LA might point to the fact he's repped by Scott Boras, who rarely negotiates extensions for his clients. Admittedly, Boras has had a busy offseason. He's probably not thinking about an Urías extension right now.
But could that also indicate the Dodgers aren't willing to push the envelope here? If there was one player on the current roster they'd pay handsomely, wouldn't it be Urías? The reigning ERA champ is entering his age-26 season and has been incredible the last two years. But he's still yet to pitch more than 185.2 innings in a single campaign. He's still yet to serve as the ace on this staff, with a healthy Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw still being higher in the pecking order.
In a sense, that puts the Dodgers in a good position. They can "overbid" right now to keep Urías off the market and secure a top-end starter to avoid a mad dash next year, when they're going to be in line to lose another slew of players, one of which would be Urías.
Just look at the pitching contracts out there. How much negotiating power would Boras have if Urías doesn't have a Cy Young season in 2023? You have Gerrit Cole's $324 million deal; Stephen Strasburg's $245 million; David Price's $217 million; Jacob deGrom's $185 million; Carlos Rodón's $162 million; Chris Sale's $145 million. Realistically, how much can Urías command with no awards or All-Star appearances to his name? He has age on his side (he'll be entering his age-27 season after free agency), but he's not going to reset the market with a deal in excess of eight years.
Couldn't the Dodgers have ended the conversation early and offered something like seven years and $182 million? Could've even went eight for $208 million and slammed the door shut. Would Boras have really said no to that? Would the Dodgers have really felt a $26 million AAV for a pitcher of Urías' caliber wouldn't have been worth it?
Maybe we're rambling here. But there's one asset on the roster at this moment nearing free agency that the Dodgers could stomach giving a long-term contract, and it's Urías because of his age, the important in-demand position he plays, and the amount of starters the Dodgers have lost and are expected to lose in the coming offseasons.
We hope we're wrong, but unless there's more noise on this topic. it might be time for fans to brace themselves to say goodbye to another Dodgers legend in less than a year.