Ureña agrees to one-year deal to stay in Colorado

November 12th, 2022

DENVER -- The Rockies want to add starting pitching this offseason. On Friday, they made sure they didn’t lose any by signing right-hander José Ureña to a one-year contract with a $3.5 million guarantee and a club option for 2024.

The deal is worth $3 million in base salary with a $500,000 buyout on a $4 million club option for 2024.

Ureña, 31, finished 2022 in the Rockies' rotation and went 3-8 with a 5.14 ERA in 17 starts. He signed with the Brewers during Spring Training and began the year in Milwaukee's bullpen (a 3.52 ERA in four relief appearances) before being released and hooking up with Colorado for the chance to start.

A strong finish and Ureña’s penchant for forcing ground balls intrigued the Rockies. He went five or more innings and gave up two or fewer runs in six of his final seven starts. He also pitched with little support, with no more than two runs behind him in 14 of his 17 starts.

Ureña produced a 49.7% ground ball rate this season, per FanGraphs. Had he pitched enough innings to qualify for the National League ERA title, his rate would have been fifth-highest in the NL. It fits with a staff that had two high placers in ground ball rate -- righty Germán Márquez (47.6%, No. 6) and lefty Kyle Freeland (42%, No. 17).

Because of the way batted balls tend to carry at Coors Field, Colorado values grounders and the ability to force double plays. Ureña at his best forces weak contact with his fastball, slider and improving changeup. Ureña is not big with the strikeouts (5.85 K's per nine innings) and going forward will need to limit walks -- he had a 3.99 BB/9 rate this year, the second-highest of this career.

Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt has said the club wants to upgrade its rotation, and is looking at trade possibilities and free agency. Freeland and Márquez, coming off years with poor starts but encouraging final weeks, lead a group that expects a lift from Antonio Senzatela, who is expected to return in May from left knee ACL surgery.

Ureña, rookie Ryan Feltner and lefty Austin Gomber, who spent much of 2022 in the bullpen, are all part of the 2023 rotation picture.

The club also has expressed interest in retaining free agent righty Chad Kuhl (6-11, 5.72 ERA in 27 starts), who signed during Spring Training and spent the season in the rotation.