The Brewers have been no stranger to shocking trades involving shortstops in recent years. The offseason trade that brought in Luis Urias a couple years ago certainly stands out, as does the one early this year that shipped out fan favorite Orlando Arcia certainly qualifies as well.
On Friday, president of baseball operations David Stearns kept the trend going when it was announced that Willy Adames, as well as right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards, were acquired from the Rays for relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen.
In Adames, the Brewers acquire a young shortstop with a stellar defensive reputation and an excellent clubhouse presence. But obviously this move also has huge implications for the incumbent shortstop, Urias.
Urias finally got his chance at guaranteed regular playing time when Milwaukee opted to move on from Arcia earlier this season. 39 games into that experiment, the results for the 23-year-old hadn’t been perfect, but they hadn’t exactly been a disaster either.
Now Urias finds himself exactly where he started his Brewers career and where he began the 2021 season, in a timeshare at shortstop (not to mention any other position). Yes, he’s had his issues defensively this season, but did that really mean Milwaukee had to make the move that they did?
In acquiring Adames, did the Brewers pull the plug on Luis Urias too soon?
The answer: it’s not that simple. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
When the Brewers traded for Urias two offseasons ago, it was because they thought he could be a regular contributor for a major league team in a key position up the middle. And before this season, they made it known that they had every intention of giving him the opportunity to do that, specifically at the shortstop position.
Unfortunately, Urias put a bit of a kink in that plan with his defensive performance to start 2021. In those 39 games played this year, Urias already has compiled 9 errors, tied for most among major league shortstops, and is worth a -3 defensive runs saved.
The question was whether his bat made it worth letting him work through it. And after starting the year going 2 for 27, Urias had batted .244 with a .773 OPS, four homers, and 18 RBI in 30 games since. Not world-beating numbers, but more serviceable than Brewers fans had seen from him so far.
Like Urias, Adames comes to the Brewers with multiple years of team control remaining, so this isn’t a temporary patch job at the position. Adames is around to stay, and now Urias transitions to a slightly different role according to Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Though Urias, outside of his recent concerning ability to commit throwing errors at times, wasn’t considered a poor defensive shortstop overall, the team gets a significant upgrade there in the field with the addition of Adames, an important factor for a team that has a huge focus on run prevention.
According to the team, though, Urias’ defensive performance wasn’t necessarily what prompted to move to acquire Adames. Instead, it was revealed that this potential acquisition had been in the works for a while.
And that’s exactly why this move makes the situation more complicated than just “pulling the plug too soon.” Did Urias’ defensive performance possibly accelerate the move? Maybe. But in working on bringing in Adames, the Brewers had to have already considered what that would mean for Urias and where he would end up fitting with the team.
As a “super utility guy,” Urias will probably still get a good amount of playing time. And that will be important, because regular playing time was what he needed to show that he had what took to be a major league contributor.
Making moves like this mean the Brewers still believe they have the talent to contend for a playoff spot once again in 2021. And even though this move doesn’t signify fully pulling the plug on Urias, it’s a move they felt necessary to achieve that goal.