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José Ureña signs 1-year deal with Tigers

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Ureña had spent his entire professional career in the Marlins organization prior to being released earlier this month.

Miami Marlins v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Old friend José Ureña is heading to the Motor City after signing a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Tigers on Wednesday.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was first to report it, Daniel Álvarez Montes of El Extrabase confirmed the length, while Fansided’s Robert Murray provided the guaranteed money.

The Marlins mainly utilized Ureña as a starting pitcher during his six major league seasons with them. That seems to be the plan for him in Detroit—the deal includes up to $250,000 in performance bonuses based on how many starts he makes in 2021.

Joining the Tigers reunites Ureña with Juan Nieves, who is their assistant pitching coach. Nieves was Miami’s pitching coach from 2016-2018. Ureña led the club in innings pitched during his tenure.

Prior to breaking the news, Heyman heard that more than six teams had been showing interest in Ureña, including the Phillies. But despite that competition for his services, these contract terms justify the Marlins’ decision to designate him for assignment and subsequently release him on Dec. 2. The 29-year-old was projected for approximately $4M in arbitration and would’ve had negative trade value considering his poor 2020 season.

Baseball Savant

When Michael Wacha agreed to terms with the Rays recently on a $3 million deal, I speculated that Ureña would wind up somewhere in that ballpark. Even though Wacha has enjoyed a much more successful career overall, they’re both experienced, right-handed rotation candidates of the same age and coming off similarly disappointing, injury-shortened seasons. So this seems to be a fair deal under the current circumstances.

If Major League Baseball plays a full 162 games in 2021, Ureña will receive the highest salary of his career. He made $3.20M in 2019 as a first-time arb-eligible player. Last year, he settled with the Marlins on a raise to $3.75M, but due to the pandemic, only $1.39M of that was paid out.

The Marlins and Tigers aren’t scheduled to meet next year in any spring training or regular season games. Unless they both make improbable runs to the World Series, the only way Ureña will face the Fish is if he’s traded, waived or released midseason.

The Marlins move into the post-Ureña era with Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernandez as Opening Day rotation locks (health permitting), and prospects Sixto Sánchez and Trevor Rogers as leading candidates for the final two spots. More internal options include Nick Neidert, Daniel Castano, Jordan Yamamoto, Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett.

Joe Frisaro dedicated one of his final pieces on the Marlins beat to the state of the rotation, and the delicate balancing act between trusting the young arms without over-exerting them. Even though the front office has other priorities to address this offseason, I think they should seriously consider investing in a veteran innings-eater such as José Quintana or Aníbal Sánchez.