Culture / Sporting Life

Honest Jose Urquidy’s Giant Heart Makes It Impossible Not to Appreciate Him, Even If the Astros Trading Him Makes Playoff Sense

The Man Who Could Bring Back the Missing Piece?

BY // 07.29.22

Most Major League veterans will feign that things like the trade deadline do not bother them. The standard responses center around not thinking about it. Or baseball moves not being part of their department. But Jose Urquidy does not play those kinds of games.

The 27-year-old from the beachside town of Mazatlan, Mexico wears his heart on his sleeve. Still. Even in his fourth Major League season, having pitched lights out in two different World Series, there is something refreshingly open — maybe even a little naive in the best way — about Jose Urquidy.

So after Urquidy throws six and two thirds innings of excellent (not dominant, but definitely excellent) baseball, he admits he is thinking about next Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline. About the fact that this Thursday night game against the Seattle Mariners — which turns into a 4-2 Astros win and another Houston body blow to the Mariners — could be the last game he pitches for Houston.

It’s a natural human thing to think about. And Urquidy isn’t going to pretend otherwise. What good would that do anyway?

“I was thinking a little bit if I get traded or something,” Urquidy says, standing in front of the big Astros logo wall in the clubhouse. “But anyways, I have to do my work (between starts). That’s not my decision if it happens. I have to be good with myself and take it easy.”

Urquidy makes it clear he doesn’t want to leave the Astros. Who would? He’s already been part of two World Series runs. Urquidy is 23-11 overall (including 3-0 in the World Series) in his still young career in part because he plays for one of the most consistent winners in all of sports. It’s good to be a Houston Astro.

The issue is that Urquidy is good enough to be a potential anchor trade piece that could bring back the type of difference making hitter that this Astros lineup needs to be a World Series favorite. It’s no stretch to say that Jose Urquidy could be more valuable to Jim Crane’s franchise for what he brings back.

Which speaks to both Urquidy’s own value — and how a rotation with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and soon enough Lance McCullers Jr. is stacked enough to make Urquidy an excess luxury. In theory at least.

In reality, these are human beings. Much more than all the detailed numbers in a statistical profile. Jose Urquidy means plenty to the guys who play with him.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman says of Urquidy’s impact since the pitcher came up in 2019. “He’s just pounding the strike zone every time he goes out there. You know what you’re going to get. A guy who’s going to compete in the zone.

“He works fast. We love playing behind him. And he’s an unbelievable teammate. He shows up as the same guy every single day and loves competing.”

Despite the fact that Cristian Javier has much filthier stuff and Luis Garcia seemingly more potential and strikeout power at age 25, dealing Jose Urquidy would be no small loss. But if it brings back the big game of a true difference making bat it could be worth it.

This is what Astros general manager James Click, who saw a Verlander-less starting rotation that he didn’t bolster at last year’s trading deadline implode in the World Series loss to the Braves, must weigh with another deadline approaching. Unlike last year, these 65-35 Astros do not seemingly need an ace.

But trading away proven starting pitching is never an easy decision. Giving up Urquidy warrants a significant return. Whether the Astros secure that type of offer could come down to the final hours of the trade deadline.

Which makes Jose Urquidy’s current reality a decidedly uncertain one.

“I got all the social media and I saw when people tag me in some news,” Urquidy says. “But if something happens — let’s see. I will have the same focus. And I would like to stay here for many years, but I know this is a business. And if that happens I have to play and work hard.”

When Urquidy is taken out of this Thursday night game two outs into the top of the seventh, he’s greeted by very loud and enthusiastic support from the crowd of 29,799. You can’t help but wonder if the fans are giving Urquidy a little something extra to remember if does end up getting dealt.

It’s a well earned moment for a guy who’s all heart and honesty. Jose Urquidy is hard not to root for, even if he might help the Astros more with what his talent can bring back in a trade.

“It’s been fun to watch him throw. He’s been throwing the ball very well. It’s given the bullpen a lot of length. And we’re excited to keep watching him do that.” — Astros closer Ryan Pressly on Jose Urquidy

The Ryan Pressly Example

An example of just how important these trades can be pitches the ninth for the Astros on this night. When the Astros traded two minor prospects to the Minnesota Twins for Ryan Pressly in July 2018, it certainly didn’t bring any blaring headlines. Or produce much sports talk show chatt.

But Pressly, already 29 years old at the time of the deal, has turned into one of the most dependable closers in all of baseball. A guy capable of retiring 32 consecutive batters, a franchise record that finally ended after more than a month of baseball when Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford singled off him with two outs in the ninth inning.

Pressly, who became a father for the second time during the streak, is on a special run. One that started with that anything but ballyhooed trade in many ways.

“I felt like I was locked in,” Pressly says when I ask him about the streak, which is an Astros franchise record. “I still feel like I’m locked in. You know, like I said, you just put your head down and keep going out there and doing the work. And by the time you look up, you’ve done something pretty special.”

The Houston Astros defeated the Detroit Tigers 3-2 behind a home runs by Jose Altuve and a base-loaded walk by Kyle Tucker, scoring Michael Brantley at Minute Maid Park
Ryan Pressly appreciates every save he gets for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Now Jose Urquidy is throwing as well as he ever has an Astro, having posted eight consecutive quality starts with a 2.60 ERA over that span.

“It’s been fun to watch him throw,” Pressly says. “He’s been throwing the ball very well. It’s given the bullpen a lot of length. And we’re excited to keep watching him do that.”

Watch him while you can?

It’s that time of year. And Jose Urquidy isn’t afraid to show it. This honest battler pitches with his heart on his sleeve. Now and into the future. Whatever that might bring. And whatever uniform Urquidy is wearing.

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