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Please don’t trade Luis Urias

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The Padres are reportedly shopping for a starting pitcher, and Luis Urias is their biggest trade chip. Don’t do it!

MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you spend any time around baseball’s hot stove this week, you’ll likely hear the following names mentioned adjacent to one another:

Now, that’s not to say that there’s a deal in place or in motion between these teams that includes these players, but there’s an awful lot of chatter.

On the off chance that the Padres, who are 3-9 since the All-Star break and last won a home game on June 29th, are actually contemplating doing a deal with the Mets for Syndergaard that includes Urias....I wanted to try and convince them not to.

Let’s Ignore Thor

This is not meant to be a post about whether or not Noah Syndergaard is an ace pitcher or would be worth the haul or any of that.

He’s good, he’s under control for 2.5 years, and that’s that. This is meant to be an introspective look at the Padres.

Now, we’ll start with Luis...

Luis Urias is still the 2nd best prospect that the San Diego Padres have. Sure, when you can trade a prospect for an established MLB player you often pull that trigger, but it’s also important that you don’t panic and sell too early or for too low of a price.

The Padres gave Luis 500+ plate appearances at A+ ball, AA ball, and AAA ball before making those decisions that he was ready to move up. Making a move now, when he’s roughly 100 PAs into his MLB career, shows that the team is not confident that he’s the player everyone else thinks that he is. That’s going to hurt his value some.

Here’s what Luis Urias is, for sure:

  • The 2nd youngest position player on the Padres’ 25-man roster
  • A gold-glove caliber defender
  • A hitter that has posted an OPS of .778 or higher at every minor-league level (that would put him between Hosmer and Reyes on the Padres, in case you want context for what his floor is supposed to be)

Let’s parse these out some...

Age

Now, being the 2nd youngest position player on the roster means that he should be given some time to sort things out. This is the process with every player that comes up so quickly through the ranks. A good example of this is Manuel Margot, who came up at 21 years old (Urias is 22) has played three full years of okay baseball while the team waits for him to find his footing. That was easier when the team didn’t care about winning games.

However, Urias’ biggest problem right now is that he’s playing on a nearly-.500 team next to 23 year old Franmil Reyes and 20 year old Fernando Tatis Jr., both of which already look like veterans by comparison. The normal “he just needs some time” argument is not working as effectively because of those guys, who should probably be treated more as the exception than the rule.

Defense

Urias definitely has the defense to stay on the field. That much doesn’t need to be debated. But what should that level of defense be getting him?

Even while batting .075, Urias’ OBP is just a tick beneath those for Austin Hedges (who stays on the field with defense) and Ian Kinsler (who was supposedly staying on the field with defense).

Any argument to the point of “Urias needs to play” is 1) true and 2) an argument against Austin Hedges or Ian Kinsler to play, as well.

The good news is...

Hitting

Luis Urias is not going to finish his career as an .075 hitter. He’s just not.

Look through any list of prospects that are viewed as “busts” and they generally fall into three categories:

  • Guys that struggled with injuries
  • Guys that fell apart once they made it to AA or AAA ball
  • Guys that were average MLB players instead of superstars

Urias does not fit into the first category (KNOCK ON WOOD), certainly doesn’t fit into the second, and an average MLB hitter would definitely post a batting average above .075. As a matter of fact, Luis doesn’t need to be anything more than an average hitter to be a good player.

The Other Players

I remember, back in the days of Chase Headley at 3B, when the argument was that the team needed to find power from a position that doesn’t normally provide it to even out for the fact that Headley was playing 3B and didn’t have it.

The argument was that Headley’s defense and OBP were so valuable that you didn’t want to replace him at 3B, you would just need to find his missing qualities (HR power) elsewhere.

The good news for the 2019 Padres is that they don’t really need Urias to be a special hitter. Between Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. (providing plus-plus offense at a position you don’t normally get it from), Franmil Reyes, and Hunter Renfroe....the Padres have plenty of big bats. What they need from Urias is defense, stability on offense (which he’s shown at every other level), and the ability to be a tough out (which seems to be his specialty).

In summary: Trading a player you don’t really need to hit because he isn’t hitting would be a dumb thing to do. Even if you’re worried he’s going to be an average hitter, he’s worth keeping.

The Future

Let me paint you a picture that was probably painted in A.J. Preller’s office a couple of years ago:

C: Under control through 2023 (Mejia)
1B: Here through 2022 and probably through 2025 (Hosmer)
2B: Under control through 2024, at least (Urias)
SS: Under control through 2024, at least (Tatis Jr.)
3B: Here through 2023 and probably through 2028 (Machado)
LF: Under control through 2022 (Renfroe)
CF: Under control through 2022 (Margot)
RF: Under control through 2024, at least (Reyes)

It appears to me that it was Preller’s plan to build a young, talented team that is under contract or under team control for a window of at least 5 years. It appears he’s done that.

Now, comes part 2 of his plan (wait for the young, talented pitchers to make it to MLB) and, eventually, part 3 (build depth).

Trading for an MLB pitcher now would essentially be the result of impatience, and it would actually set the team back in terms of part 1 of the plan.

Remove Luis Urias from the list of under-control players above and your options at 2B become....???

  • Ian Kinsler is a free agent after 2020 (and maybe retired before then?).
  • Greg Garcia is under control through 2021, which is helpful but still creates a hole in the future of the timeline/window.
  • Hudson Potts (11 games at 2B) and Ty France (7 games at 2B) are probably the next in line but neither is really a fit for the position and mostly are playing there because they’re blocked by Machado at 3B.
  • Esteury Ruiz can’t get his OBP to .300 playing in Lake Elsinore, so who knows if he’ll even make it to AA or AAA, much less MLB.
  • Tucupita Marcano has about 350 PAs in the level below Lake Elsinore, so he’s even further away.

I don’t want to make it out like trading Luis Urias would be “blowing it up”, but it definitely creates a hole in your plans for no real reason. The team is battling it out for last place in the division, so they’re not going to the playoffs this year, and the original plan or waiting for the arms to show up (Patino, Morejon, Baez, Gore, Quantrill, etc.) seems to working just fine.

Not to mention, if the Padres are looking to add a starting pitcher for next season, it makes a ton more sense to try and get one on the free agent market before shipping out prospects becomes an option.

This is a long way of saying that trading Luis Urias for a starting MLB pitcher doesn’t make much sense to me, and I hope the Padres don’t do it.