With so little work completed on the free agent market this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers probably should've worked overtime to get Julio Urías signed beyond 2023 as he enters the final year of his arbitration eligibility.
After back-to-back career seasons (following his relief performance closing out the 2020 World Series), Urías has increased his price beyond what anybody could've previously imagined, especially based on how he was utilized early on in his career.
In his first two full seasons as a starter, Urías has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the game. He led the league in wins in 2021 and captured the ERA title in 2022, receiving plenty of Cy Young votes both times. He managed to accomplish that between the ages of 24-25.
Urías will be heading into his age-27 season when he signs his new contract, which isn't all that common (usually only among the game's best who get a head start at 19 or 20 years old). When it comes time to pay a player, especially if it's a long-term deal, the most important factor is weighing the potential prime years and regression years that will be paid for.
For Urías, it's hard to argue he wouldn't be providing maximum value in regard to his performance on a contract in between six and eight years. An eight-year deal takes him through his age-34 season, which is smack dab in the middle here
Dodgers Julio Urías Contract Extension: What Scott Boras Had to Say
“He offers a team the utter prime of his career,” Boras told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Usually, fans and media are inundated with Boras' lame (but sometimes funny) puns, but this time his brutal honesty caught Dodgers fans' attention.
Whether or not the Dodgers chase Shohei Ohtani next offseason, it shouldn't affect their pursuit of Urías because of how thin the rotation will be after 2023. Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. Though Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May will both be around through at least 2025, Walker Buehler will be heading into a contract year in 2024 in his first season back since Tommy John surgery. That's far too many question marks or not enough frontline insurance.
Spending big money on Ohtani and Urías would be the best way to insure against paying for backslides. Ohtani is an elite two-way player and, at worst, will be a star DH in his latter years (depending on the length of the deal, since he'll be heading into his age-29 season in 2024). Urías is hitting his stride as one of the best in the game and arguably has yet to hit his ceiling.
What's the alternative? Rely on Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Ryan Pepiot? Maybe! Sign high-priced options like Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito, Luis Severino and/or Blake Snell? Also maybe! But neither scenario is as ironclad or worthwhile from an investment perspective as Ohtani and Urías leading the charge.
There should be exceptions for teams doling out long-term contracts in excess of $200 million. It's reasonable to exercise restraint on this front. But if the Dodgers don't view Urías as a prime candidate to pay top dollar for, then what's their philosophy here?