In Luis Urías, the Red Sox Pick Up a Reclamation Project

Luis Urias
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After shipping Enrique Hernández back to Los Angeles last week, the Red Sox addressed their newfound lack of infield depth with a last-minute trade right before Tuesday’s trade deadline, acquiring Luis Urías from the Brewers for right-handed pitching prospect Bradley Blalock.

Urías only turned 26 years old in June, but he’s already had six years of big league experience under his belt. He was a highly regarded prospect with the Padres before getting dealt to the Brewers in the Trent Grisham trade ahead of the 2020 season, then broke out the next year, posting a 112 wRC+ with 23 home runs and a .249/.345/.445 slash line. That kind of production from an infielder who can capably play anywhere on the dirt seemed to solidify him as a core piece in Milwaukee’s lineup. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury suffered on the first day of the season cost him all of April and May, and once he returned from his injury, he was a shell of his former self, limping to a 60 wRC+ in 20 games in June and getting demoted to Triple-A at the end of the month. Since then, he’s posted a .250/.392/.447 slash line in 20 games for Triple-A Nashville, good for a 113 wRC+.

Contact quality was never Urías’ strong suit, even when he was producing solid numbers in Milwaukee. He leveraged great plate discipline to produce an above-average walk rate, giving him a good foundation at the plate, and he pulled enough fly ball contact with a barrel rate good enough to support his home run totals in 2021 and ’22, but he wasn’t making enough hard contact to push his production to the next level. This year, he fell to the other side of that contact quality tightrope.

Luis Urías, Batted Ball Peripherals
Year EV FB+LD EV Best Speed Barrel% Hard Hit% Sweet Spot% wRC+
2021 87.9 93.4 99.1 9.3% 40.5% 34.9% 112
2022 87.3 91.1 98.0 8.3% 35.3% 34.3% 110
2023 84.9 87.2 95.1 5.0% 30.0% 20.0% 60
Best Speed = average exit velocity of the top 50% of a player’s batted ball events.

Every single one of his batted ball peripherals has taken a turn for the worse this year. It’s certainly possible he was rushed back from his hamstring injury and that hampered his ability to swing with authority. Whatever the case may be, he obviously has a lot of work to do to get back to the kind of production he enjoyed over the previous two years.

The good news is that his plate discipline seemed to be intact and even improving in his brief stint in the majors this year. He was able to cut his chase rate by more than six points, down to 16%. His overall swing rate was down, too, perhaps indicating an acknowledgement that his swing wasn’t quite right. Those plate discipline gains were offset by the lowest contact rate of his career (75.7%), which is a big reason why his strikeout and walk rates barely budged from his established norms.

The Red Sox have had a ton of trouble fielding a competent middle infield pair this year. With Xander Bogaerts in San Diego and Trevor Story sidelined with his elbow injury, Hernández and Christian Arroyo have played the bulk of the innings at shortstop and second base. Neither has been all that effective; Hernández’s atrocious defense at short was a big reason why Boston opted to trade him to Los Angeles last week, and they’ve resorted to using Yu Chang and Justin Turner at the up-the-middle positions since then. Story is nearing a return from his injury, which should give them an upgrade at short, but second base will likely continue to be a problem.

Adding Urías to this infield mix doesn’t solve all of Boston’s problems, but if he figures out his issues at the plate, he could be an option at second base or as a flexible piece off the bench. He was assigned to Triple-A after the trade was completed, so the Red Sox are going to let him continue working things out. Urías does have two more years of arbitration eligibility left, though his escalating salary could result in a non-tender if his struggles continue. That puts some pressure on him to turn things around quickly, but it’s a low-risk move by Boston to see if he can actually do it.

In exchange for Urías, the Red Sox sent Blalock to Milwaukee. He was a 32nd-round pick in 2019 and had a very short stint as a professional that year before the pandemic wiped out what would have been his full season debut in the minors. He showed some growth in 2021 in A-ball, with his velocity ticking up to 93–95 mph. Tommy John surgery in 2022 stalled his development, but he has returned this year with some real prospect helium. On this year’s prospect list, he ranked 19th in Boston’s farm system with a 40+ FV. His fastball has continued to improve and his curveball has shown tremendous growth, leading to a 2.55 ERA and a 3.65 FIP in seven High-A starts this year.

Since 2023 is Blalock’s 40-man evaluation year, and with two potentially plus pitches, the Brewers will need to figure out quickly if he’s a part of their future or potentially leave him vulnerable to the Rule 5 draft. He slots in at 17th in their organization on The Board.





Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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sadtrombonemember
9 months ago

Of course the Red Sox traded for Luis Urias. Chaim Bloom will always look for reclamation projects. Every time. Let’s roll the tape:

He signed Trevor Story coming off his second-worst year, one where he suddenly stopped being able to throw. He signed Hunter Renfroe coming off his worst year, then traded him for Jackie Bradley Jr coming off his worst year. He traded for Nick Pivetta after Nick Pivetta became bad. He traded for Eric Hosmer after Eric Hosmer became bad. He signed Enrique Hernandez after he became a backup-quality player. He signed Michael Wacha after he had a 5.51 xERA for the Rays. He signed Jose Peraza a year after he had a 59 wRC+ for the Reds. He traded for Kyle Schwarber when he was hurt. He signed James Paxoton who had been hurt for roughly 3 consecutive years.He traded for Adalberto Mondesi, who has never not been hurt.

Have I left anything out? Some of these moves turned out well, some didn’t, but there’s one thing they all have in common.

rickdugo3000
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

acquired jeffrey springs off a 5.66 xERA for Texas in 2019, kept him for 20 horrendous innings, then traded him to a division rival for a quad-a catcher while springs has become a very good starter

some more: jake diekman off a 4.45 xERA, kevin pillar off an 84 wrc+, kevin plawecki off a 67 wrc+, martin perez off a 4.11 xERA, christian arroyo in the midst of a 93 wrc+ season, danny santana off a 40 wrc+, travis shaw off a 68 wrc+, marwin gonzalez off a 69 wrc+, garrett richards off a 4.61 xERA, reese mcguire off a 53 wrc+ and public masturbation charge, franchy cordero, adam duvall off an 87 wrc+, corey f’ing kluber

some have worked! but it’s ironic that if you add up all the money spent on these guys you could buy some seriously good players.

sadtrombonemember
9 months ago
Reply to  rickdugo3000

Chaim Bloom lives for this. He’s got a good team, and several of his moves have panned out. But he’s awfully lucky that he inherited a team with talent and that ownership has a lot of money because I swear that his goal is to do this instead of win. It’s wild, and I can’t think of a single fanbase less suited for this sort of whiplash than the Red Sox fans. Maybe they’ll learn to tolerate it.

bosoxforlifemember
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Bloom is walking a tightrope as he continues to try to find value where nobody else has seen it. He has lucked out with guys like Schreiber and this year’s complete mystery man, Bernardino. It is his trading for dubious prospects that has Red Sox Nation getting more and more restless with his approach. We have seen enough of the Enmanuel Valdez’s, Pablo Reyes’s, Wilyer Abreu’s and the awful Alex Binelas to believe that he cannot evaluate talent.

tz
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

As a Red Sox fan, I didn’t mind at all when Dan Duquette did a lot of the same bargain hunting. The difference is that, unlike Bloom, he inherited a total dumpster fire, so that had to be one part of his rebuilding M.O.

LesVegetables
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Ehh some of these are a stretch, I agree Bloom loves to buy low on guys but Story and Schwarber were certainly not reclamation projects. Neither was Kluber, Justin Turner, Masa, Kenley, Chris Martin.

sadtrombonemember
9 months ago
Reply to  LesVegetables

I didn’t mention the latter ones for that reason. I’ll stand by Story and Schwarber being buy-lows, though.

LesVegetables
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Schwarber had hit 25 HR in the first half of 21 when the Sox traded for him lol. And Story got $140 million! What reclamation project gets a $140 million contract lol

rickdugo3000
9 months ago
Reply to  LesVegetables

one who had a 98 wrc+ and a clearly injured throwing arm the year before he was signed

dont ask me man ask chaim bloom lol

sadtrombonemember
9 months ago
Reply to  LesVegetables

Right, but he was hurt. Which is why he got traded for Aldo Ramirez and not Bryan Mata (or, more likely, an equivalent prospect from another team).

Last edited 9 months ago by sadtrombone
proiste
9 months ago
Reply to  LesVegetables

And a couple of those guys (Hosmer, Franchy) were miscast as the central targets of their trades when they were really just throw-ins.

EonADS
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

To be fair, Urias does at least look like an upgrade over what K. Hernandez was giving them. At least he can play competent infield defense.

sadtrombonemember
9 months ago
Reply to  EonADS

At second base, probably. Urias is a mess at third or shortstop.

Brock244
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

To be fair, the red Sox post-Dombrowski we’re absolutely gutted. Probably the worst farm in the sport, no depth on the major league roster, and zero payroll flexibility

A lot of his “dumpster dives” where more necessary then because they had no room to spend or trade prospects in 2020 and going into 2021

Obviously he loves finding bargains, and I’d say it’s one of his good traits. But if you take a step back there’s definitely been more good than bad. They’ve been a good team in 2/3 full years he’s been in charge all while restocking the system, partly because of the value buys

Last edited 9 months ago by Brock244
sadtrombonemember
9 months ago
Reply to  Brock244

Urias is a totally reasonable guy to take a flier on here. He was a credible second baseman for a while. Also, the Brewers were going to non-tender him.

tz
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

It would be great to see him become Orlando Arcia part deux.