The Cleveland Indians were right to let Gio Urshela go, but should they have let Andrew Velazquez go?
It has been well documented that the Cleveland Indians had third baseman Gio Urshela before he grew into the player he currently is with the New York Yankees. In 2017, Urshela was even the starting third baseman in the American League Division Series for Cleveland against the Yankees.
Urshela had just two hits and one RBI in the series, but his defense is the reason why he was on the field. Urshela was always a fantastic defender, and that would be putting it modestly. Since his debut in the Bronx he has improved all facets of his game tremendously.
Letting Urshela go was a no-brainer at the time because Cleveland was set to move their best hitter Jose Ramirez to third base. They were in contention at the time and simply didn’t have the space to occupy Urshela on the roster after the 2017 season.
With Cleveland, Urshela had only seven home runs and 36 RBI in 423 at-bats. It wasn’t just the lack of power, he also had a low on-base percentage of .273. He got picked up via trade by the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations where he played in just 19 games before they gave up on him as well.
Of course, of all teams, it was the New York Yankees that saved his career. Since arriving in New York, Urshela has hit 38 home runs and 145 RBI with an OBP of .344 in over 900 at-bats. It’s an incredible turnaround that hitting coach Marcus Thames deserves a lot of credit for. Today, Urshela is arguably a top 10 third baseman in all of baseball. In hindsight maybe Cleveland wishes they kept Ramirez at second base, especially since they need all the help they can get offensively.
But what about more recent moves that have been more key than Urshela? We fast forward to the latest player they have let get away too soon. Yankees shortstop Andrew Velazquez. This is an interesting situation considering Velazquez only got 12 at-bats with Cleveland during the 2019 season over five games, but again it looks like the Yankees may have found a diamond out of Cleveland.
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At the time Cleveland let Velazquez go in 2019, Francisco Lindor was still the shortstop, but the writing was on the wall that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. Now they have Andrés Giménez who has really struggled. He’s hitting .179 although he only has 100 at-bats this season. Velazquez went to the Baltimore Orioles in 2020, and similar to Urshela, he was released after hitting .159 in 63 at-bats. Not exactly a stat line that leaves teams wishing they had kept him.
The Yankees invited him to Spring Training and he was assigned to Triple-A earlier this season. He was very productive in Triple-A, hitting .283. He was known mainly for his defense, but the bat seemed like it would never come around.
Due to Gleyber Torres getting injured, the Yankees gave the Bronx town kid a call up a few weeks ago. He grew up a Yankees fan and this whole experience has been a dream to him. He helped beat the Red Sox with four RBI, and he hit his first home run against the Twins this weekend. He also made a great play to end the game against the Red Sox. He has been a much-welcomed spark for the Yankees, and now the question is can he becomes Gio 2.0?
With all things considered, the Cleveland Indians still made the right decision letting both of them go because there was no evidence to suggest that they could turn it around offensively. Even in stops after Cleveland, the Tribe’s concerns were verified with struggles for different teams. Somehow, the Yankees just knew how to fix the problem.
Furthermore, the jury is still out on Velazquez and it will be interesting to see what happens as he gets more at-bats. Regardless of how Velazquez and his future with the Yankees plays out, it’s always a joy to watch a player play in his home town. Even if it is New York.