Aside from bringing back veteran utility infielder Miguel Rojas, not much has happened on the Los Angeles Dodgers player personnel front since the team officially bounced Trevor Bauer from the roster last week.
Although the club is on the hook for the approximately $22.5 million of Bauer’s 2022 salary, all indications are that the team will attempt to stay under the luxury tax threshold for the upcoming season. A move last week that somewhat affected the budget was an agreement on a one-year, $14.25 million deal with starter Julio Urias, allowing the 26-year-old lefty to avoid the arbitration process in his final season before free agency.
We really haven’t heard anything concrete regarding serious extension talks between the Dodgers and the Mexican native, which you might consider surprising depending on how you look at it. Nevertheless, with Clayton Kershaw on the downside of one of the MLB’s most prolific careers, and Walker Buehler having to sit out the upcoming year due to UCL surgery, there’s no question that Urias will play the role of Dodgers Ace for 2023, at least for the early part of the season.
Urias has been nothing but stellar since recovering from a serious shoulder surgery procedure that saw him miss the entirety of the 2018 season. Even though he surprisingly has never made an All-Star team, he ended up finishing in the Top 10 Cy Young Award voting the last two campaigns, including a third-place finish last year.
Although Urias has been an iron man as far as the Dodgers’ starting standards go — 185-2/3 innings in 2021 and 175 innings in 2022 — it was his lack of innings pitched that saw him finish behind Max Fried and winner Sandy Alcantara in the CYA voting last season.
Regardless, last year was undoubtedly the best campaign of Urias’s career, having produced a 0.960 WHIP and an NL-leading 2.16 ERA and a 194 ERA+ over 31 starts.
A few seasons back, it looked like the game was beginning to steer away from a traditional five-man rotation where each guy would throw his heart out each night. However, the Dodgers have been one of the few who have stuck with the traditional starting pitching concept, even though Los Angeles pitchers are seemingly throwing fewer innings as each year passes by.
In 2022, Urias averaged 5.65 innings pitched per game over his 31 starts.
The upcoming season has one of those feelings that the daily lineup at the end of the regular season might be a bit different than the batting order we see at the beginning of the year. Accordingly, the starting rotation could have a similar fate. However, it’s tough to imagine any pitcher on the current roster replacing Urias as an ace if he pitches anything like he did over the past two years.
If Urias ends up staying healthy and contending for another Cy Young, he could end up with a ridiculously high contract next year, especially if he hits the free agent market at a still very young age of 27.