If the Astros Will Trade a Starter, Who Should it Be?
As it stands, Urquidy is seen as the most likely of this group to be involved in a trade, because he’s slightly older and his stuff is not in the same tier as Garcia’s or Javier’s. Which, of course, also means he just has to be the one that’s the hardest to evaluate. On the year, he has an ERA of 3.86, an xERA of 4.72, a FIP of 4.42, a WHIP of 1.21, and 80 strikeouts. Both Garcia and Javier rank above him in all those categories.
However, Urquidy is the one that has thrown the most innings out of the group, at 107.1. He started in the Majors as a starter with an innings limit, and was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen in his first postseason, but he has thrown 95 pitches or more in most of his outings over the past 6 weeks. Dusty Baker and his coaching staff have transformed him into a workhorse starter.
A caveat with Urquidy is the fact that he is, both in effect and in reality, a different pitcher than he was to start the year. Like many pitchers, he tried to join the “cutter revolution” and add that pitch to his repertoire, but it just was not working. Opponents didn’t end up doing too much damage off it, but they surely would have if he kept sticking with it. Hitters put up a .396 xwOBA against it, meaning they squared it up a ton. He dropped it in early June, and in 8 starts since, he has a 2.60 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and a .163 batting average against. Both the ERA and BA against rank 2nd on the staff over that timespan. The version of Urquidy that we have seen since that change is far more reflective of his abilities than the way he pitched in April and May.
Still, as evidenced by the high difference in ERA and FIP over that timespan, dropping the cutter has only limited the quality of contact against, not the amount. He is still striking out just 6.4 batters per 9 innings since dropping his cutter. The drop in opponents’ average has allowed him to go deep into games of late, but that rate of strikeouts shows that his ERA isn’t necessarily sustainable. As well, his xFIP over that timespan is in the mid-4s, meaning that he has given up an unnaturally low amount of homers relative to the amount of flyballs he has surrendered.
Another complication with Urquidy is the fact that he recently changed agents and hired Scott Boras to represent him. Boras’s aggressive nature in negotiating means that getting paid what he wants as he goes into arbitration will be a top priority for Urquidy, and it will give the team less flexibility if they keep him around. Urquidy has been rightfully credited for his recent contributions out of the rotation after making a key adjustment, and his 1.54 career ERA in the World Series is something that any team would value, but his strikeout stuff is a clear cut below the Astros’ other trade options.