The San Diego Padres dealt Luis Urias to the Milwaukee Brewers this week. But did the team give up too early on the Mexican infielder?
In baseball, as in life, sometimes you just have to read the signs.
For the last 12-16 months, the San Diego Padres have sent signals that they were not pleased with Luis Urias. The trade Wednesday to the Milwaukee Brewers should come as no surprise, as the whispers of a possible deal had been circling for the past few months. Urias seemed to be in the center of several rumors as the Padres look to upgrade their squad.
Upgrade? Urias is 22 and seasoned for Major League action. By losing his potential, did the Padres really upgrade their squad?
A hamstring injury sidelined Luis Urias at the end of the 2018 baseball season. The infielder amassed 48 at-bats in 12 games for the Friars recording a .618 OPS in his first taste of Major League action. The early reviews were not pleasant for the right-handed hitter, but there seemed to be time for him to hone his craft. Playing in 120 games at the Triple-A level and producing a .845 OPS for El Paso, Urias was eager for a shot at an everyday job at the Major League level in 2019.
Instead of allowing for that the to happen, the Padres signed Ian Kinsler last winter to a two-year/$8-million dollar contract. In doing that, the Padres virtually guaranteed that Luis Urias would start the season in the minors. This was a bit of a surprising move as he had previously checked all the boxes in terms of offensive production from a second baseman at the minor league level. Perhaps the step was to challenge him to improve in his abilities. More often than not, the little things about a player make the difference. Clearly, the Padres had an idea of what Urias was lacking in terms of taking his game to the next level.
For quite a few years, Padres’ fans have heard about the Mexican infielder and his unreal plate discipline. Urias continually struck out fewer times than he walked as a minor leaguer, and that is a trait A.J. Preller, and his front office covets. In 302 plate appearances at the Major League level, Urias simply did not display that ability. Quite frankly, he looked lost at the plate and was beat by pitchers quite a few different ways. Three hundred times at the plate is a little early to pass judgment, but the signs were not trending the correct direction.
Instead of shortening up his swing and utilizing what had carried him the Majors, Urias developed a leg kick and started to drive the ball more. Playing in the PCL with juiced baseballs and favorable ballparks, Urias put up a .998 OPS and a .600 slugging percentage. Mission accomplished for the infielder as far as tapping into his power potential, but he also struck out 62 times in 295 at-bats. PCL power will not translate to the Major League level. The small middle infielder will never be a dangerous power threat. Attempting to be that is just a waste of his god-given talents, which consists of hand-eye control and plate discipline.
For the Padres, the injury to their franchise shortstop in 2019 allowed the team to play Luis Urias at the position to end the season. Urias played 25 games at short, only committing one error for San Diego. He proved his worth at shortstop and arguably boosted his value on the trade market. The Brewers intend to utilize him at the position to begin the 2020 season.
The Padres are reportedly now on the lookout for a second baseman. Luckily for them, there are several on the free-agent market who could make a lot of sense for the Padres in 2020 and beyond. A.J. Cassavell reports that Preller is looking at several options through trade or free agency.
Did the Padres give up too early on Luis Urias?
The team has all the tools to measure his abilities adequately. The Padres have cultivated him since he signed with the team at the age of 16. They may have soured on some of the little things about Urias, but they still valued him as a player.
This trade may be more about depth than anything else. San Diego has several prospects in the minors about ready for Major League service time (Esteban Quiroz and Ivan Castillo), and they also have a few men lower in the ranks (CJ Abrams, Xavier Edwards, and Tucupita Marcano) as well. The second base position is not an area of weakness for the San Diego Padres and their farm system. Left-handed hitting outfielders is a weakness, and they addressed that in acquiring Trent Grisham.
Only time will tell if the Padres gave up on Luis Urias too early. The writing was on the wall, though. Both sides probably needed to move on, and a fair deal was found in which the Padres gain in an area they lack. It is difficult to lose a player that you see blossom before your eyes, but the Padres’ farm system is so stacked with future Major Leaguers, that this will be a continual thing as this team rises to relevancy.