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Marlins should engage Angels in José Ureña trade talks

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Facing a roster crunch, the Marlins could flip their expendable right-hander to a team with less 2020 starting rotation depth.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This article was originally published moments before the Marlins sent RHP Kyle Keller to the Angels in exchange for C José Estrada. If anything, that just goes to show that these front offices have a healthy working relationship!

You’ve seen by now that the Marlins reached agreements to sign outfielder Corey Dickerson and catcher Francisco Cervelli in late December. In addressing these areas of weakness, they have moved incrementally closer to competing at the major league level.

However, neither signing is official yet—the Marlins have a full 40-man roster and must make room for them. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Ideally, they’d like to bring Dickerson and Cervelli into the fold without sacrificing any players who have realistic chances of contributing for them long term.

This brings us to Sunday’s report by Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com:

Sources say the Angels and Indians have discussed a trade this offseason that would send back [Mike] Clevinger to his original organization, although there has not been active dialogue in recent days.

Talks failed to gain momentum when the Indians’ initial asking price included Angels outfield prospect Jo Adell (No. 5 overall on MLB Pipeline) and an additional player, sources say.

After whiffing on this winter’s best available free agent starting pitchers, the Angels have “focused” on trading for one more experienced rotation candidate, Morosi adds. The Indians make for an awkward trade partner because they are trying to toe the line between cost-cutting and contending in the AL Central after averaging 95 wins over the past four seasons. It will be difficult for these teams to find common ground.

So who should the Angels turn to next? I have a suggestion...

Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish Stripes

If you squint hard enough, José Ureña comes with some of the characteristics that make Mike Clevinger an appealing target. Despite a back injury midway through 2019, Ureña has logged 428 13 innings in the big leagues since 2017; Clevinger has 447 23 innings over that same span. Both arms have 95 mile-per-hour average fastball velocity as starters (Ureña’s velo spiked slightly above that in a September relief role). Miami’s right-hander is nearly one year younger than Cleveland’s and projected by MLB Trade Rumors for a lower salary in 2020 ($4.5 million arbitration projection for Clevinger, $4.0 million for Ureña).

Ultimately, though, Ureña has a fraction of Clevinger’s trade value because he’s produced only a fraction of his value on the mound.

  • Mike Clevinger since 2017: 10.8 fWAR
  • José Ureña since 2017: 2.4 fWAR

The Marlins should be comfortable accepting that reality. They had trade talks involving Ureña at last month’s MLB Winter Meetings, per reports by Craig Mish and Joe Frisaro. The timing for actually completing such a move seems more appropriate now with the Dickerson and Cervelli signings pending and spring training right around the corner.

How about this proposal: Marlins trade RHP José Ureña to Angels for INF Kevin Maitan and RHP Greg Veliz

Maitan is somewhere between the 20th- and 30th-ranked Angels prospect, depending on which national outlet you check, but that grossly oversimplifies his situation.

The Venezuelan infielder was the consensus best player available in the 2016 international amateur free agent class. The Braves won the bidding for Maitan, then lost control of him after the 2017 season as part of their punishment for repeatedly violating MLB rules. He has disappointed in L.A.’s system since then—.226/.288/.349, 78 wRC+ in 816 PA at Rookie/Low-A levels—and despite the initial hype, “pro scouts outside the org who had no context for their [evaluation] barely considered him a prospect” when observing him recently, according to FanGraphs.

On the other hand, when the switch-hitting Maitan squares up the ball, he can send it a long way to all fields. He is finding a defensive home at third base after being signed as a shortstop (h/t Baseball America) and only turns 20 years old in February.

Baseball Savant

Another important factor here is that Maitan must wait until December 2020 for Rule 5 Draft eligibility. The Marlins would be adding this intriguing reclamation project while freeing up Ureña’s 40-man roster spot.

In “settling” for the volatile Maitan as the trade’s centerpiece, the Marlins should have the leverage to land Greg Veliz as well. The South Florida native and University of Miami product has been identified as a potential late-round sleeper out of the 2019 MLB Draft by Carlos Collazo of Baseball America (subscription required), combining his mid-90s fastball with a promising slider and split-changeup.

Poll

Marlins fans, would you be satisfied with this José Ureña for Kevin Maitan and Greg Veliz trade?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes!
    (144 votes)
  • 18%
    No, should get more in return
    (40 votes)
  • 16%
    No, don’t trade Ureña until he rebuilds value in 2020
    (37 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now