As the Trade Deadline approached last month, José Urquidy's name persisted in various rumors. The Blue Jays, for example, were a possible fit as they had a glut of catchers, and the Astros had a surplus of starting pitchers. The fit was rather obvious, at least on paper. In the public sphere, though, we do not know how far talks progressed or if any negotiations took place. But one could argue that James Click's wisest decision at the deadline was not to trade the 27-year-old right-hander, especially if the return wasn't what Houston desired for a pitcher with a history of quality results and who remains under club control through 2025.
One reason why Urquidy was mentioned as a potential trade candidate was mainly due to his struggles to open the season. In his first 11 starts, he allowed 31 earned runs in 55 1⁄3 innings with a strikeout rate nearly four percent below his average rate of 20.8 percent from 2019-21. The Mariners, in particular, were a thorn in Urquidy's side as 15 of those 31 earned runs occurred in his starts against this AL West rival. Interestingly enough, in his 11th start of the season, which happened against the Mariners, Urquidy threw his last cutter. Dan Martin detailed here how Urquidy's cutter performed and how a new emphasis for his slider could prove beneficial.
Since dropping his cutter entirely from his repertoire, Urquidy's results have generally improved, with a 2.81 ERA/4.15 FIP in his last ten starts compared to a 5.04 ERA/4.91 FIP in his first 11 appearances. While the removal of his cutter has primarily increased the usage of his four-seam fastball in June and July, we've also seen Urquidy embrace more of his secondary offerings in August by sacrificing some usage from his four-seam fastball.
It is no secret, as mentioned by Dan in his post in June, that Urquidy doesn't generate many swings-and-misses. Out of his entire pitching profile, it is arguably his most glaring weakness, which is why his secondary offerings remain an essential piece of the puzzle. It is interesting to note that Urquidy is trying to have opposing hitters chase and miss more outside of the zone in his last two starts, even if the results — five earned runs in 12 innings — haven't quite materialized as of yet.
Urquidy is scheduled to start later today against the White Sox, and this game could provide some insight into how he utilizes his secondary pitches. The right-hander is at his best when he can generate some swing-and-misses, which wasn't the case to start the season. Today's game will provide another critical data point if this is a continuing trend or more of a game-by-game strategy, depending on the opponent. If he can continue to improve in this area, however, I am hopeful we'll continue to see more quality outings from Urquidy for the remainder of the season.