Cleveland Indians: 3 years later, Gio Urshela trade was a huge mistake

Giovanny Urshela #39 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Giovanny Urshela #39 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Gio Urshela
Second baseman Giovanny Urshela #39 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

3 years later, Gio Urshela trade was a huge mistake for the Cleveland Indians

Three years ago, on May 9, 2018, the Cleveland Indians dealt away utility infielder Gio Urshela to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash. While hindsight is 20-20, looking back on this trade the Tribe came up on the short end of the deal and most likely now regret the move. Luckily, Cleveland wasn’t the only team to mistakenly move Urshela that season.

After playing just 19 games for Toronto the Blue Jays moved Urshela to the New York Yankees on August 4, 2018. Since then, Urshela has been capturing the hearts of Yankee fans everywhere, despite recent rumors that he could yet again be moved via trade.

The decision to move Urshela was a roster decision more than anything. The club activated him from the injured list and designated him for assignment because there wasn’t room in Cleveland for him and he was out of options. The Blue Jays called up the Tribe to make the second deal of three the two teams would agree to over the course of the season and Urshela was moved.

In case, you were wondering what the other deals with the Blue Jays were, the Tribe acquired former Bowling Green Falcon Jon Berti in April for cash and then Josh Donaldson in August for a player to be named later.

While it took time for Urshela to make progress in the majors he quickly proved his worth in New York and has become a key cog on their roster. He had his coming out party in 2019 when he played in 132 games for the Yankees and slashed .314/.355/.534 with 34 doubles and 21 home runs.

It didn’t help that during that season the Tribe had Jason Kipnis at second who slashed just .245./304/.410 with 23 doubles and 17 home runs. While few saw that coming from Urshela, it still would have been a rather nice upgrade.

Overall, Urshela has blossomed in New York. He hasn’t maintained his 2019 numbers, but his overall stats with the Yanks are still pretty good. Over his time with the Yankees he’s slashing .298/.344/.495. Those are numbers Cleveland would happily accept right now.

So why does this one hurt more? Trades like this happen all the time in baseball. Well, one of the glaring needs of the Cleveland Indians this season is infield depth. Whether it be Yu Chang, Owen Miller or Ernie Clement, the team just can’t find a reliable player that comes with offensive production. Urshela would have provided just that.

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While most of his career has been played at third base, he has spent time at every other infield position as well. It hasn’t been a ton of experience, but he can do it. He would essentially fill the exact same role that Chang had when he was up in the majors, just with much better offensive production.

The one argument against not trading Urshela is that his production would have outpriced him in Cleveland. That’s possible. After his breakout season in 2019 he inked a deal for just shy of $2.5 million for 2020. As for this season, he’s making $4.65 million. That would make him the fifth highest contract on the Cleveland Indians right now.

Urshela also still has two years of arbitration left, which means his contract could continue to rise with his production, but it also means that Cleveland potentially missed out on at least six seasons of strong infield depth.

Had Urshela stayed in Cleveland and broke out in 2019, the club probably keeps him at second base moving forward. That means the team doesn’t sign Cesar Hernandez, and saves money in the process, while opting to put Urshela at second.

Again, hindsight is always 20-20, but there’s a very slim chance that the Tribe could try and right the wrong. As mentioned above, there’s rumblings that Urshela could be on the trade market again. His price tag is a bit high for Cleveland, especially as a utility player, but maybe this front office shocks us.

Regardless of where Urshela is at the end of this season, he should have ended the 2018 campaign in Cleveland. Cleveland moved him after less than 150 games at the major league level and didn’t even give him a shot in 2018 before the deal. His stats weren’t great at the time and who knew what was coming, but he had shown potential and his versatility was valuable. There was enough there to try and make it work a bit longer.

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