Yankees: Revisiting When New York Stole Gio Urshela From Toronto

New York Yankees infielder Gio Urshela (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Yankees infielder Gio Urshela (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Gio Urshela is a New York Yankee thanks to some short-sighted decision-making by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Let’s caveat this — no one knew what Gio Urshela would become when he was plucked out of Triple-A by the New York Yankees on August 4, 2018, purchased away from the Blue Jays’ affiliate in Buffalo.

But by any metric, the Yankees remade their defensive infield with a wizard of a third baseman at next to no cost, and they took an impact player away from the Jays in the process. Though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is slated to start north of the border for the next decade, you’re telling me they couldn’t find room for a player like this?

At the time, Urshela was just another piece of infield fodder for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, carving out at-bats that August in a crowded picture that included such similar players as Abi Avelino, Tyler Wade, and Rey Navarro. Urshela hit .307 in 27 games with the Yanks’ Triple-A affiliate, presenting a small sample of what was to come the next year, after hitting just .233 in 46 plate appearances with Toronto’s big league club (ending June 25).

Entering 2019, we wouldn’t have begrudged you if you still hadn’t seen enough from Urshela to think this midseason roster move was anything but the furthest of shots in the pitch-black dark.

And when the slick-fielder manned the hot corner for the first time last season, it was under dire circumstances. With Didi Gregorius still on the mend, the Yankees were relying on DJ LeMahieu, Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki to fill in across the diamond and somehow approximate the previous season’s offense. Naturally, Andujar went down in the season’s first series, and eventually needed season-ending surgery (Tulowitzki was soon to follow), turning a role that was a temporary patch into a full-year opportunity.

Did Urshela step up, or did Urshela step up?!

The 27-year-old was hitting .345 by the end of April, and never looked back. The team went 75-37 in Urshela’s 2019 starts, and the third-sacker hit .314 with 21 homers on the year, racking up 3.9 WAR in the process.

In entirely unexpected fashion, the Yankees have now secured the highest-risk defensive position in their infield for the foreseeable future, and it barely cost a dime.

Thanks ever so much, Toronto!