Ex-Yankee Gio Urshela agrees to bonus-laden $1.5M Tigers deal for one year

Ex-Yankees star Gio Urshela joins the Tigers on February 22, 2024.

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The Detroit Tigers, seeking to add experience to their young lineup, signed veteran infielder Gio Urshela to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with performance bonuses. This move comes after Tigers president Scott Harris previously stated the team was unlikely to add another everyday starter.

Gio Urshela, 32, fits the bill perfectly. He provides a veteran presence at third base, where Matt Vierling is currently projected to start, while also offering valuable infield versatility. The one-year deal aligns with Harris’s previous comments, and the potential performance bonuses incentivize Gio Urshela for consistent play.

The Tigers’ contract with former Yankee Gio Urshela contains additional upside via plate appearance incentives. As reported by Rep 1 Baseball, Urshela will earn $100K bonuses upon reaching 500, 530, 560, 590, and 620 trips to the plate. That plateau system can push the total value of his one-year Tigers deal up to $2 million if the innings eater showcases durability in Motown.

This signing adds depth and experience to the Tigers’ roster, potentially bolstering their offensive production and providing valuable guidance for their young players. While Gio Urshela is not expected to be an everyday starter, his veteran leadership and ability to fill multiple infield positions could prove valuable for the Tigers throughout the season.

A chance to return for Gio Urshela in Detroit

Gio Urshela’s 2023 season, spent with the Los Angeles Angels, was unfortunately cut short due to a pelvic fracture in June. Despite the early end, he had a productive offensive showing in his 62 games played. Gio Urshela boasted a .299 batting average, his highest since his breakout year in 2019 with the Yankees (.314). Although his ground-ball rate increased (48.6%, up from 2022’s 41.7%), his home run total remained low at two.

Ex-Yankees star Gio Urshela is seen during his days in pinstripes in 2019.

However, Gio Urshela’s true strength lies in his defense. Before the injury, he had already accumulated six defensive runs saved, tying him for sixth among all third basemen in 2023. This defensive prowess extends beyond third base, as Gio Urshela has demonstrated versatility throughout his career, seeing time at first base, second base, and shortstop.

Gio Urshela brings a wealth of experience to the Detroit Tigers after a recent string of trades. Previously, he served as the Yankees’ starting third baseman from 2019 to 2021 before being traded to the Twins in March 2022 as part of a larger package involving Gary Sánchez. He then moved again in November 2022, joining the Angels for minor league pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo.

Now entering his ninth Major League season, Gio Urshela has donned the uniforms of the Guardians, Blue Jays, Yankees, Twins, and Angels. This journey has equipped him with a broad understanding of different teams’ systems and strategies. Notably, since his full-season debut in 2019, he has consistently delivered a .291/.335/.452 batting line across 497 games, demonstrating offensive consistency and an above-average OPS+ of 115.

A fan favorite

While his 2023 season was shortened by injury, his versatility remains a valuable asset. Gio Urshela has proven his defensive prowess at third base, ranking sixth among all third basemen in defensive runs saved before his injury. Additionally, he has experience playing first, second, and shortstop, adding depth and flexibility to the Tigers’ infield.

Gio Urshela’s experience, offensive consistency, and defensive versatility suggest he can be a valuable addition to the Tigers’ young roster. His adaptability and leadership qualities could also benefit the team’s development throughout the season.

Gio Urshela’s offensive profile aligns with the Detroit Tigers’ focus on zone control, despite his tendencies towards low walks and higher chase rates. He exhibits strong contact skills, evident in his below-average 18.8% whiff rate (6 points below MLB average) and career-low 15.8% strikeout rate in 2023.

While his 37% chase rate falls in line with his career average and exceeds the MLB average, he counterbalances it with a solid 66.5% contact rate on pitches outside the zone. This ability to make contact on off-speed pitches makes Gio Urshela a valuable asset.

The Tigers can utilize Gio Urshela’s versatility by deploying him against left-handed pitching at third base or designated hitter. This flexibility could create opportunities for Matt Vierling, who primarily focused on third base in Spring Training but also participated in outfield drills recently. Integrating Vierling into the outfield could potentially create more consistent starts for left-handed hitters in the outfield lineup.

Overall, Gio Urshela’s contact-oriented approach, combined with his experience and defensive abilities, makes him a valuable addition to the Tigers’ roster. His integration into the lineup adds depth, flexibility, and potential offensive production, particularly against left-handed pitching.

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