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Julio Urías 2022 salary arbitration preview

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Dodgers LHP is coming off a career year

Championship Series - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

If the collective bargaining agreement was still in effect, this week would likely see several deals across MLB, with players and teams agreeing to terms on one-year contracts to avoid salary arbitration.

In the last CBA, the date for players and teams to officially exchange salaries — if a deal can’t be reached, an arbitration hearing would be set to determine the winner between the two salaries — was the second non-holiday Friday in January. That’s this week, but as of now there is no CBA, with the sport currently in a lockout.

The Dodgers started the offseason with five players eligible for salary arbitration. One of them, Scott Alexander, was sent outright off the 40-man roster in November and elected free agency. Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers reportedly agreed to a one-year, $17 million contract just before the lockout on December 1, a deal that hasn’t yet been announced by the team.

Three arbitration-eligible players remain:

  • Trea Turner is in his final year before free agency, coming off a stellar year. We already previewed his arb case, and I guessed he’d get about $20.5 million in 2022.
  • Caleb Ferguson has three years, 93 days of service time and eligible for arbitration for the first time. He missed all of 2021 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He’s likely to get paid with some bump over the minimum salary, but with no CBA in place yet we don’t know what said minimum salary is. Back in October, Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors projected a 2022 salary of $700,000 for Ferguson.
  • That leaves one more player to analyze: Julio Urías, looking to cash in after a stellar 2021

Urías has four years, 117 years of service time, and entering his third year of salary arbitration. He was a Super Two in 2020 — among the top 22 percent of players that season with at least two years but not yet three years of service — so he’ll get four years of arbitration instead of the usual three.

He earned $1 million in 2020, and $3.6 million in 2021.

Figuring out Urías’s salary in 2022 is tricky, for a few reasons. Early innings limits and major shoulder surgery has the left-hander with far lower career numbers than most of his comparable players. But his excellent 2021 season also sets him apart, so this becomes a matter of whether to put more stock in career totals or a launch year.

Urías in his career has pitched 424⅔ innings and made 70 total starts in his six big league seasons. Looking back at the last five years of salary arbitration — thanks to the MLB Trade Rumors database — there were 21 pitchers with at least four but not yet five years of service time. Urías has by far the fewest career starts and innings of the bunch.

Julio Urías comparable pitchers

Player Year Service time Prev. arb Arb $ Career WAR Launch WAR Career IP Starts ERA+
Player Year Service time Prev. arb Arb $ Career WAR Launch WAR Career IP Starts ERA+
Julio Urías 2022 4.117 $3.60 TBD 8.6 4.7 424.7 70 134
Jacob deGrom 2019 4.139 $7.40 $17.00 25.2 9.5 897.7 139 144
Noah Syndergaard 2020 4.149 $6.00 $9.70 16.8 3.6 716.0 118 119
Kyle Hendricks 2019 4.081 $4.18 $7.41 15.7 3.3 789.0 132 133
Trevor Bauer 2019 4.158 $6.53 $13.00 14.0 5.8 904.0 150 110
Gerrit Cole 2018 4.111 $3.75 $6.75 13.2 3.0 782.3 127 112
Sonny Gray 2018 4.061 $3.58 $6.50 12.6 2.7 770.3 123 115
Eduardo Rodriguez 2020 4.130 $4.30 $8.30 12.3 4.9 699.0 122 113
James Paxton 2019 4.151 $4.90 $8.58 12.3 3.5 582.3 102 117
Tanner Roark 2018 4.055 $4.32 $6.48 12.3 2.1 754.7 111 120
Jon Gray 2020 4.062 $2.93 $5.65 12.0 3.4 641.3 114 110
Dallas Keuchel 2017 4.089 $7.25 $9.15 11.7 1.4 839.0 126 104
Kevin Gausman 2019 4.151 $5.60 $9.35 11.5 2.9 823.3 137 102
Alex Wood 2018 4.123 $2.80 $6.00 11.4 3.3 651.7 102 120
Marcus Stroman 2019 4.148 $6.50 $7.40 11.1 0.9 665.0 108 108
José Berríos 2021 4.044 $4.03 $6.10 9.2 0.9 659.7 115 105
Drew Smyly 2017 4.154 $3.75 $6.85 9.2 1.0 570.3 85 107
Robbie Ray 2019 4.007 $3.95 $6.05 8.7 1.0 616.3 113 108
Sean Manaea 2021 4.157 $3.75 $5.95 8.4 0.8 547.7 96 108
Garrett Richards 2017 4.148 $6.43 $6.85 8.1 0.6 640.7 93 105
Jake Odorizzi 2018 4.042 $4.10 $6.30 7.4 -0.1 705.3 126 103
Michael Foltynewicz 2020 4.134 $5.48 $6.43 7.2 0.9 682.7 117 98
Salary in millions WAR is an average of Baseball Reference & FanGraphs

Only three of these pitchers had fewer than 600 career innings at this point in their careers — Sean Manaea (547⅔), Drew Smyly (570⅓), and James Paxton (582⅓). Only three had fewer than 100 starts — Smyly (85), Garrett Richards (93), and Manaea (96). But all of them had far more bulk participation stats than Urías.

The table above, after Urías, is ordered by career WAR, an average between Baseball Reference and FanGraphs versions. Only Manaea, Richards, Jake Odorizzi, and Mike Foltynewicz had lower career WAR than Urías at this point. The innings Urías has pitched have been high quality — his 134 career ERA+ is topped on this list only by Jacob deGrom, with Kyle Hendricks (133 ERA+) the only other pitcher close to Urías — but relatively, there haven’t been very many of those innings for Urías.

The outliers on this list, salary-wise are deGrom, coming off his first Cy Young Award (2018), and Trevor Bauer, both of whom have double the innings and starts of Urías at this point in their careers. DeGrom and Bauer have the two highest career innings and starts totals on this list, but also have the two best launch seasons by average WAR in this group.

The only other pitcher in this list with a higher WAR in the most immediate preceding season is Eduardo Rodriguez heading into 2020.

  • Rodriguez: 203⅓ IP, 19-6, 3.81 ERA, 128 ERA+, 3.86 FIP, 213 K, 75 BB, 6.1 bWAR, 3.7 fWAR
  • Urías: 185⅔ IP, 20-3, 2.96 ERA, 138 ERA+, 3.13 FIP, 195 K, 38 BB, 4.4 bWAR, 5.0 fWAR

Both got a handful of down-ballot Cy Young votes, with Rodriguez finishing sixth in the American League in 2019 and Urías tied for seventh in the 2021 National League.

Rodriguez made $8.3 million in 2020, but also had 274 more career innings and 52 more starts than Urías to this point. His average career WAR was 12.3, compared to 8.6 for Urías.

In 2019, Rodriguez earned $4.3 million, so his 2020 number represented a 93-percent increase. Applying that same standard to Urías’s $3.6 million salary from 2021 puts him at $6.95 million for 2022.

The MLB Trade Rumors projection for Urías in 2022 is $8.8 million. Only seven pitchers on this list got salaries of at least $8 million in this arb year. All have more career bulk numbers than Urías, most by a large margin. All of them the year before had higher previous salaries than Urías’s $3.6 million. Two of these pitchers (deGrom and Dallas Keuchel) previously won a Cy Young Award.

The Dodgers could just buy out Urías’s final arb years with something like $20 million over two years and call it a day. But if it gets to an arbitration hearing, it really comes down to how much panelists value the previous season versus career numbers.

On lifetime numbers, it’s hard to see Urías getting over $8 million. But given how good Urías was in 2021 (and 2020), I think he can double last year’s total. So my guess for 2022 is $7.2 million for Urías.