Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Julio Urías had a slow start for the Los Angeles Dodgers to begin a contract year, but he has since turned his season around and is once again pitching like a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Urías is in a unique spot because he made his MLB debut at 19-years-old, so he will become a free agent at just 27 years of age, compared to other pitchers who often enter free agency around the age of 30.
The southpaw is also arguably the best available starting pitcher after Shohei Ohtani and has a fantastic track record in the postseason, so all things considered, he’s in line to receive a significant contract.
While the Dodgers will surely be in the mix to re-sign Urías, he will undoubtedly have multiple suitors pursuing him. One team that already has Urías as one of their top targets is the St. Louis Cardinals, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
The Cardinals will pursue at least three starting pitchers in trades and free agency, president John Mozeliak said, with Julio Urias of the Dodgers, Blake Snell of the Padres and Aaron Nola of the Phillies sitting atop their wish list.
The Cardinals are in desperate need of starting pitching after a failed 2023 season that saw them end up as sellers at the trade deadline despite opening the year expected to win the the National League Central.
The only two starting pitchers the Cardinals have under contract for 2023 are Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz, while prospect Matthew Liberatore and swingman Jake Woodford are also under team control.
In addition, the Cardinals are also expected to purse Blake Snell and Aaron Nola, but both are four years older than Urías. While all three have shown some inconsistencies, Urías still has a case as being the most consistent among them.
Urías owns a career 3.02 ERA and 3.56 FIP in 706 innings with 697 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP.
Julio Urías contract expectations
Urías is somewhat of a unicorn entering free agency as an ace at age 27, which means there aren’t many comparable contracts to project what he may receive.
The last pitcher to sign a contract in free agency at 27 was Jose Berrios for seven years, $131 million, but he isn’t on a comparable level to Urías.
Stephen Strasburg signed with the Washington Nationals in 2016 at 27 years old on a seven-year, $175 million deal, which gave him an average annual value of $25 million.
That’s likely to be the starting point for Urías, who should receive a higher AAV thanks to the increasing luxury tax threshold and possibly a few more years on his contract because of the competitive market.
A contract worth around $250 million over nine years, giving Urías an AAV just shy of $28 million, seems like a fair bet.
There’s also a chance he may be willing to take somewhat of a hometown discount to remain with he Dodgers because of his comfort level with the team and connection to the city and its fans.
The Dodgers would likely prefer to offer a higher AAV over fewer years to keep him. That deal could look something like five years for $160 million ($32M AAV) and allow him to reach free agency again at 32, putting him in line for another significant contract.
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