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After a lackluster 2023 season, Ramón Urías is the odd man out

It was probably not the season Ramón Urías hoped for.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

After a solid 2022 season that saw Ramón Urías become a regular contributor for the 83-win Orioles, he lost his way somewhat in 2023. After winning the Gold Glove for third base in 2022, it was expected that he’d enter 2023 as a regular player in the infield. But between injury and the additions of promising prospects, things didn’t go quite that way. Now 29 years old, it’s unclear what the future holds for Urías with the Orioles.

Urías was claimed from waivers by the Orioles in 2020, just weeks before COVID shut down Major League Baseball. Fans or media barely noticed the move at the time. Urías hadn’t yet made his major league debut and had little expectations assigned to him. He stepped up in the past few seasons to become a solid contributor to the team, though his overall performance in 2023 was underwhelming.

Between injury, lack of power, and a squeeze in the infield created by the signing of Adam Frazier and the emergence of Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, Urías often felt like a player without a place.

Early in the season, Urías shared third base responsibilities with Henderson. They formed something of a platoon, Henderson the lefty batter and Urías the righty batter. Urías also started when Henderson moved over to shortstop on a Jorge Mateo off day, or shifted over to second base to spell Frazier.

Over the first month or so of the season, this worked pretty well. Urías got on base regularly with one of the better OBPs on the team. But his power numbers lagged. Through May 8 he had just one home run. It was on May 8 that he injured his hamstring.

His injured list stint kept him off the field for 15 games, at which time the Orioles got into an infield rhythm of playing Frazier at second, Mateo at shortstop, and Henderson at third. Rookie call-up Joey Ortiz filled in as needed at all three positions.

Upon his return from the IL in late May, Urías slotted right back into the lineup, splitting time a third base with Henderson. But his offense was way down from the level it was before his injury, even with his power drought in April. From his return through the end of June, he hit just .229/.270/.374. At the same time, Henderson was heating up and had to be in the lineup every day.

Luckily for Urías, Mateo had played himself out of the regular starting lineup with his poor offense, so Henderson got more and more time at shortstop. If Mateo had kept up his early season performance, it probably would have been curtains for Urías.

Even with Henderson’s increased playing time at shortstop, Urías’s time at third stayed steady at about half the time. Because in July another player entered the mix: Jordan Westburg. Urías had another tough offensive month in July as he made 12 starts at third base and three at second.

The only IL trip that Urías made in 2023 was the hamstring strain in May, but he struggled with an injured heel for much of the final two months of the season. He just wasn’t able to get in a groove to justify more playing time, and even if he had, his heel seemed to be holding him back.

By September, Urías started to feel like a forgotten man. He started 14 of 28 games and went one four-game stretch without a start, though he did come into those games after they began. Ultimately Urías played in 116 games but started just 96, which is not what I expected when the season began.

His final batting line was .264/.328/.375, good for an OPS+ of 98. Technically 98 is just a touch below average, but he hit just four home runs in 396 plate appearances. That’s pretty rough.

Ramón Urías isn’t a free agent until the 2027 season, but he is arbitration-eligible starting next year. It’s hard for me to envision a role for him on the team going forward even with his multiple years of team control.

Urías plays second base and third base, so the signing of Frazier was particularly rough on him. With the emergence of Henderson and the everyday play of Frazier, he was put in a bind.

Frazier won’t be back next year, but Westburg should start with the team on Opening Day. He plays the same positions as Urías. Prospect Jackson Holliday, a 2B/SS, should debut in 2024 as well. And Jorge Mateo doesn’t overlap positions with Urías, but his base-stealing skills and ability to hit lefties offer something valuable to the team.

Ramón Urías was a player who helped the Orioles bridge the gap between being a bad team and being a good team. But now that they hope to be a very good team, there may not be a spot for him.

2023 player reviews: Ryan McKenna, Jacob Webb, Austin Voth/Keegan Akin, Adam Frazier, Jack Flaherty, Shintaro Fujinami, Aaron Hicks, Bryan Baker, Jorge Mateo, Kyle Gibson, John Means, DL Hall, Jordan Westburg, James McCann, Ryan O’Hearn, Mike Baumann

Tomorrow: Cole Irvin