José Ureña was with the Marlins for twelve years, six of which were in the Majors. He was used in different roles throughout his journey with the team and was at his best in 2017, when he shone primarily as a starter. But this week, he was officially let go by Miami. Ureña is now a free agent after the front office decided not to tender him a contract, putting an end to his Marlins tenure.
Yes, he was a good veteran presence and his struggles the last two seasons, largely impacted by injuries and COVID-19, were not fully indicative of his ability. Even so, this was a smart move by Kim Ng and her people for several reasons.
First of all, they’re saving money with Ureña’s departure. According to MLB Trade Rumors, he was projected to make something around $4M in 2021, which based on how the Marlins have been spending lately, could be enough to bring aboard at least two low-cost but effective relievers. As Ng said a few days ago, she’s focused on adding weapons to the ‘pen.
Following the non-tender deadline, the free agent market is flooded with nearly 100 major league right-handers. The supply outweighs the demand. Combining those circumstances with his recent performance, Ureña should be attainable for less than a $4M guarantee—that’s why no team claimed him off waivers while he was in DFA limbo.
Second, it is difficult to make the case that the 29-year-old Dominican is any better than the Marlins’ internal options. After that good 2017 season mentioned above, he was not effective. It’s been a worrisome trend for him, gradually getting worse year after year.
From 2018 to 2020, Ureña pitched to a high 4.47 ERA, a 4.50 FIP, and a 1.30 WHIP, with an ugly 13-25 record. In fact, he last won for the Marlins on June 1, 2019. And 2020 was not any better for him:
Lastly, the club’s young arms need to keep developing with reps at the major league level. Sixto Sánchez, Pablo López, Sandy Alcántara, Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernández, Edward Cabrera, Jordan Yamamoto, Nick Neidert, Daniel Castano, Edward Cabrera, and recently drafted Max Meyer should each be in the mix for starting opportunities during the 2021 season. If the Marlins are to add an older pitcher to that equation, it should be someone with a superior track record to Ureña.
Even though he was a good Marlin, Ureña was incompatible with the organization moving forward.