Rolling into August 15, 2018, José Ureña sported a mediocre 4.74 ERA. He began that year as the default Marlins No. 1 starter, or as I like to say, #MyAce. But it wasn’t until after that night where things began to turn around for the young starter. Ureña was ejected for plunking Atlanta Braves young phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. in the elbow on the first pitch of the game, and the onslaught of public criticism came raining down.
There was no debate as to whether or not Ureña intended to hit Acuña—to many, it seemed “obvious.” Ureña denied any intention to hurt Acuña despite the bad look of the situation, citing his intention to pitch inside with his very fast, tailing two-seam fastball to Acuña, then work the outer half of the zone.
MLB and the media didn’t buy his explanation. Ureña served a six-game suspension.
But during that time, something must’ve happened. Something clicked.
First game back from suspension, August 19, on the road against the Washington Nationals? Complete game, only one run allowed on two hits. Ureña’s turbo two-seamer was working, the command was much more consistent, his slider was more reliable, and his always good changeup was playing up as a third pitch.
But it didn’t end there. In a seven-game span, Ureña had a 6-1 record with a 1.80 ERA to close the season out. Despite having an NL-leading 1.20 ERA in September, he was denied NL Pitcher of the Month honors. (Possibly a wise-PR move by MLB because of the scandalous connection with Acuña, but that is besides the point.) Ureña was dealt very poor cards by MLB and its fans in his return from suspension, and all he did was learn from it and evolve.
As the 2019 season rolled around, the Marlins’ expectations for Ureña were now much bigger than before. They had a starting staff replete with young talent, plus more knocking on the door waiting for a chance to prove themselves at the big league level.
Ureña struggled and it wasn’t subtle. Over the first three starts of the season, he was 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA. Each inning seemed worse than the last. Fans shouting into the Twitterverse to DFA Ureña.
But to the chagrin of the haters, Ureña’s answer has been an 9 start run with a 2.95 ERA and eight quality starts, including the last five in a row.
José Ureña bounced back from an ugly first few starts by throwing lots of nasty two-seamers on Sunday pic.twitter.com/3w6O6yQdNk— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) April 15, 2019
With success comes trade interest. And Ureña’s 2 1⁄2 years of remaining control certainly help. The Marlins being a good position to trade a starter for young hitter and perhaps give Zac Gallen a shot in the bigs, are more than willing to answer the calls.
Per Craig Mish of the Swings and Mishes podcast, several teams are interested in trading for Ureña’s services:
Several teams have inquiried about Marlins SP Jose Ureña, who will start today in Washington. Ureña has a 2.80 ERA over his last 7 starts. Miami could be open to moving him this Summer.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) May 27, 2019
If there had to be one truth to baseball, it’d be that, “You can never enough starting pitching.” And for that reason, Ureña’s trade market can have a diverse group of suitors.
The first team that comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays. A team rich with young talent of all positions which finds itself in the thick of a playoff race in the top-heavy AL East. While they have had a lot of success with their creative approach to their lack of starting pitching, it never hurts to count on a reliable starter to go every five days. Tampa’s rotation is headlined by Blake Snell and Charlie Morton and lead by the same coaching staff that has put together Tyler Glasnow’s electric arsenal and could potentially do the same for Ureña. In return the Rays could reach into their deep bag of prospects and offer the Marlins a young infielder.
After coming up short in the Dallas Keuchel sweepstakes, the Yankees could be in line for a starting pitching trade.
Along with that, OF Clint Frazier has began to fall out of favor with the media in New York and his defense isn’t doing him any favors in maintaining a roster spot once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton return from the IL. What Frazier does have is the ability to hit and he could be a very helpful addition to the Marlins 25-man roster. The Marlins front office is also filled with ex-Yankees executives who are familiar with Clint Frazier and understand what he brings to the table. It could take a bit more than just Ureña, but the framework and common interest for a deal exists.
The Cardinals were another team that had shown interest in signing Keuchel. While they have been good enough to hang around in the NL Central, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have come up short of expectations and have not been producing.
The Brewers have a very well put together offense, but their starting pitching outside of Brandon Woodruff and Zach Davies has really been a letdown. With the Chicago Cubs and Cardinals nipping at their heels, a potential addition of Ureña could prove quite helpful.
The Twins are running away with the AL Central and seem like a virtual lock for the playoffs already in early June. While their pitching staff has been performing very well, they could use a solid fifth starter and Ureña could come at the right price for them. Ureña’s remaining team control would be appealing since both Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson are free agents this upcoming winter.
This may come as a surprise to many, but the Texas Rangers currently hold a Wild Card spot in the American League. Their starting pitching has been carried by Mike Minor and the Rangers’ offense, both of which are having a fantastic season. However, it would be foolish to expect the Rangers to be able to hold their playoff positioning without making an improvement to their pitching staff, which is ranked 23rd in MLB with a 4.90 ERA.
After giving Mike Trout a record breaking extension during the offseason, not much has changed around him. The Angels are still struggling on the mound with a 5.03 ERA on the year, 27th in MLB, but they find themselves just 3.5 games shy from a Wild Card spot. Andrew Heaney’s return should contribute greatly to their staff but they could still use another starter since Trevor Cahill has struggled to repeat his solid 2018 season.
Another Phillies-Marlins trade? Unlikely, but the Phillies were scouting Ureña last season around the trade deadline, and while their interest in him may have been more as a relief pitcher, Ureña has been a reliable starter since that time and Jake Arrieta, Jared Eikhoff, and Nick Pivetta have not.
Ureña faces the Atlanta Braves on Monday night at Marlins, hopefully continuing his stretch of good outings. Could it be one of his final starts as a Marlins pitcher?
Thanks for reading, until next time.