Dodgers Offseason: Could LA Work Out an Extension with Julio Urias?

Scott Boras is famous for not working out extensions for his clients, instead opting to test the free-agent market whenever possible. Of course, Sinbad is famous for starring in the movie Shazaamso not everything someone is famous for has to be true.

To be sure, Boras clients are probably less likely to sign an extension before free agency than clients of other agents, but agents work for players, not the other way around. An agent’s job is to get as much money for his client as possible, and sometimes, that comes in the form of an extension — for example, Boras client Cody Bellinger would be much better off if he’d negotiated an extension with the Dodgers after his MVP season in 2019.

Before Xander Bogaerts became a free agent this offseason, he and Boras worked out an extension with Boston after the 2018 season, delaying Bogaerts’ free agency by three years. Jose Altuve has never been a free agent, as he and Boras worked out an extension with the Astros before he reached that point. Elvis Andrus, Jered Weaver, Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Gonzalez — plenty of big-name Boras clients have inked extensions.

All of which brings us to Julio Urias, who is heading into his final season with the Dodgers before hitting free agency. Is there a chance Julio could sign an extension to stay with LA?

First, let’s talk about what’s working against an extension, from both sides. On the team side, any extension would surely have a higher average annual value (AAV) than the $13.7 million Urias is projected to make in arbitration this year, and AAV is how the luxury tax payroll is calculated. The Dodgers are perilously close to the luxury tax after Trevor Bauer’s reinstatement, so any extension for Julio would surely put them over the limit. Of course, staying under the tax might be a pipe dream at this point anyway, in which case all bets are off.

From the Urias side, the downside of an extension is the possibility of making a lot more in free agency. Right now, Julio is coming off two outstanding seasons, going 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in 2021 before going 17-7 with a league-leading 2.16 ERA in 2022. He’s just 26 years old — he won’t turn 27 until mid -August — and has shown the ability to be an outstanding starter or reliever. Despite being in the league for seven years, Urias has just 599.2 big-league innings under his belt, “thanks” to a shoulder injury in 2017 that cost him most of two seasons and some time working out of the bullpen after his return . If Urias has another great season in 2023, he’d be one of the top pitchers on the free-agent market.

But there are things working in favor of an extension, too. From the LA standpoint, Urias has become the ace of the rotation, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in that rotation going forward — Clayton Kershaw’s year-to-year status, Walker Buehler’s injury and upcoming free agency, etc. — so locking in a key piece like Julio would be huge.

Urias is beloved in Los Angeles, which has a huge Latino population (and, specifically, Mexican and Mexican-American population) that has embraced Julio as a spiritual successor to Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela. That relationship was only strengthened when it was Urias on the mound to close out LA World Series title in 2020, and the bond between player and city could incentivize both sides to want to keep Urias in Dodger blue for a long time.

There’s also the goodwill that was built up on both sides when Urias was suspended for violation of the league’s domestic violence policy in 2019. While no charges were filed and Julio’s 20-game suspension was one of the lightest in the history of the policy, Urias took responsibility for his actions and has been a model citizen since, and the Dodgers stood by the lefty and helped him to grow from the experience. The relationship between team and player seems stronger for it.

And finally, there’s just the uncertainty of life. While Julio has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last two years, he’s only five years removed from a career-threatening injury. He could potentially make $200 million in free agency if he has another great season, but if he could get $140 million in guaranteed money right now, that would certainly have to be tempting. It’s not like Urias needs the money — his projected salary in arbitration would bring his career earnings over $27 million — but he’s already spent a lot of time and money to help his hometown of Culiacan, Mexico, and a guaranteed payday now would ensure his ability to do even more in the future.

An extension for Julio still doesn’t seem likely, but it’s not as simple as saying, “Boras client, no way.” The client works for the player, and in this case, there are plenty of reasons why the player might want to stay.

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