Indians Send Urshela to Blue Jays for Future Considerations

The Cleveland Indians completed their roster move involving Gio Urshela from last Friday, as the team traded the designated infielder to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations on Wednesday afternoon.

Urshela’s time in Cleveland ended on Friday, when his rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus came to an end and the team needed to activate him. Rather than return him to the Indians’ 25-man roster and make another move, Cleveland elected to keep Erik Gonzalez in tow and cut ties with the 26-year-old.

The Indians were in a roster bind heading into spring training, as both Urshela and Gonzalez were out of options. Urshela appeared to have the battle won in camp, hitting the cover off of the ball at a .500 clip in 18 games of Cactus League play with six doubles, three homers, and seven RBI. But before he could be crowned winner, a right hamstring strain sidelined him for the rest of the spring, giving Gonzalez the win on technicality. The fellow 26-year-old hit .320 in camp with two doubles and two RBI.

Urshela started the season on the disabled list, staying back in Goodyear, Arizona, to rehab at the team’s complex. Gonzalez was used sparingly in the first month of the season, appearing in 12 games with two starts and just 12 plate appearances, going 2-for-11 in limited action. Urshela kicked off his rehab assignment on April 13 and was a little slow to start, but his numbers at the plate perked up over the latter half of his assignment, as he hit in four straight games and had two three-hit games. After eleven games, he had put up a .324/.405/.432 line at the plate for Columbus.

When the calendar flipped and a decision on the duo loomed for manager Terry Francona and his coaching staff, Gonzalez got several starts and cashed in on the opportunity. After his two-hit April, he got three hits in his third start of the season, going 3-for-4 and coming up a homer short of the cycle in a 12-4 win over Texas. He played both games of last Thursday’s doubleheader against Toronto, going 1-for-3 with a single in the opening game and 3-for-5 with a single, two doubles, and four RBI in the nightcap to effectively win the job. He has played all four infield positions for the club this year and has been utilized on four different occasions as a pinch-runner, something that Urshela could not assist the club with.

Urshela’s trade marks a disappointing end in town for a player who just could not grasp on to the opportunities that landed in his lap.

Before Jose Ramirez claimed the position for his own and became an All-Star at the hot corner, the Indians had for years a glaring organizational hole at third base. Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana both failed to stick, and depth options in the farm system did not give much hope that the role would be filled internally. Urshela had the glove and arm to man third, but those were the only parts of his game that were prototypical of that spot on the diamond. His bat was inconsistent and certainly seemed to lack the desired power of a normal third baseman. Outside of a 30-double/14-homer campaign in 2012 at High-A Carolina and a 36-double/18-homer contribution between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in 2014, he failed to produce 25+ doubles or double-digit home run totals in a season during his time in the minors.

Further complicating matters was his inability to reach base consistently at the big league level. In 81 games with the Tribe in his rookie season in 2015, he slashed .225/.279/.330 with eight doubles, six homers, and 21 RBI. In his return to the show last year in 67 games, the numbers dropped further (.224/.262/.288) with seven doubles, one homer, and 15 RBI.

In an effort to stick in the Majors despite the lacking skill set at the plate, Urshela had expanded his game to include some defensive versatility, logging innings in the minors and Majors at all four primary infield spots. But his deficiencies at the plate led Francona to effectively platoon him with Yandy Diaz at third base last year, using Diaz’s bat early and Urshela’s defensive work late to form a quality third baseman, while taking up two roster spots to do so.

Urshela was signed by the Indians out of Colombia in 2008 as a 16-year-old and debuted in the farm system in the Dominican Summer League in 2009. He spent ten years with the organization, winning four Player of the Week awards and a spot on’s Organization All-Star team for Cleveland in 2014.

His move to the Toronto organization comes as little surprise, as the management team running the Blue Jays now was present in Cleveland throughout his development. The Jays have had a slew of infield injuries, most notably Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, and recently optioned second baseman Devon Travis to the minors. Urshela may be used heavily on the left side of the infield to let Donaldson and his throwing arm spend time at designated hitter to ease him back into regular action.

Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

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