Every year, Milwaukee Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns makes all different types of moves to add depth to the team’s roster. One of those types is signing veteran players to minor league deals.
A couple years ago, Logan Morrison was one of those players signed to a minor league deal with a chance to make the roster. He would, in fact, make the active roster to start the shortened 2020 season, though he wouldn’t make it to the end.
Last year, a couple pitchers signed minor league deals and later went on to play for the Crew that season. Zack Godley made a pair of starts at the major league level after originally signing a minor league contract, while Brad Boxberger not only spent almost all of 2021 with the Crew, but he also led the team in appearances last year and was signed to a new contract for the 2022 season.
With just over a week before the start of the regular season, the Brewers still have plenty of time to add similar such players and get them in camp for at least a few days. Today, that’s exactly what Milwaukee did.
On Tuesday, the Brewers signed free agent right-handed pitcher Jose Urena to a minor league contract.
30-year-old Jose Urena spent last season with the Detroit Tigers after signing there as a free agent. The results weren’t great as he started 18 of 26 games and went 4-8 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.599 WHIP.
Prior to that, all six of his major league seasons of experience came with the Miami Marlins, the team that originally signed him back in 2008. For a couple seasons, it looked like they might have had something with Urena.
Urena was a solid starter for the Marlins in 2017 and 2018. In 65 games (59 starts) over those two seasons, he went a combined 23-19 with a 3.90 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, and 3.8 pitcher’s bWAR. He did, however, also either lead the National League or tie for lead in hit batsmen in both years with 14 and 12, respectively.
Urena’s numbers would decline over the next two seasons as he also battled injuries, including a back injury in 2019 that led to a 60-day injured list stay. In just 29 games over 2019 and 2020, he’d pitch to the tune of a 5.25 ERA and a 1.482 WHIP, leading to a DBA after the 2020 season and his one-year stint with Detroit.
Urena utilizes a mid-90s sinker (his primary pitch) and four-seamer as well as a high-80s changeup and a mid-80s slider. None of that mix has been particularly overwhelming to batters, however, as he’s never had a K/9 over 6.7 for a season. He also walks a fair amount of batters, per his 3.2 BB/9.
Still, it never hurts to have starting pitching depth. It’s easy to forget that players like Godley, Alec Bettinger, and Brent Suter all made starts for the Crew in 2021. Who knows if the Brewers’ development team can turn Urena around and have him earn a spot start in 2022, and being signed to just a minor league deal, there’s no risk involved if they don’t.
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Add this to the list of small deals that Stearns makes every season. Time will tell if it’s one of the ones that leads to an actual major league appearance or not.