The Los Angeles Dodgers and Julio Urias agreed to a 1-year, $14.25 million contract to avoid arbitration on Friday. The left-hander, who was an NL Cy Young finalist in 2022, is set to enter his contract season, per Spotrac. But should the Dodgers do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t hit free agency following the 2023 campaign? Without further ado, here are 3 reasons the Dodgers must extend Julio Urias ahead of Opening Day.

Julio Urias: Dodgers ace for years to come?

Clayton Kershaw (more on him later) has been the Dodgers’ ace for the past decade. Walker Buehler earned the Opening Day start over Kershaw in 2022, but suffered an injury which led to his second Tommy John surgery last year.

Kershaw enjoyed a strong 2022 campaign and re-signed with the Dodgers this offseason. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him post another quality performance in 2023. But the Dodgers need an ace of the future.

Urias and Kershaw will profile as co-aces this year. Both pitchers have strong cases for starting 2023 Opening Day. Meanwhile, Walker Buehler is regarded as someone who can lead the rotation for years to come. But as aforementioned, he’s already underwent two Tommy John surgeries. As talented as Buehler is, there is no denying his health concerns.

The Dodgers need to extend Urias given his reliability. Kershaw has been that kind of pitcher since joining the big league team in 2008. Urias is on a similar career trajectory.

Letting him walk in free agency may prove to be a pivotal mistake.

Clayton Kershaw uncertainty

Clayton Kershaw has signed 1-year deals with the Dodgers during each of the past two offseasons. He faced retirement rumors after the conclusion of the 2022 season. There is no guarantee that Kershaw will be back in 2024.

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If Kershaw were to retire or leave in free agency, the Dodgers would need Julio Urias in the rotation. Otherwise, Buehler and Dustin May would be left on an uncertain starting staff. Tony Gonsolin broke out last year, but it will be interesting to see if he can continue his success in 2023. Bobby Miller projects to be a star in the rotation at some point.

Nevertheless, bringing Urias back would provide consistency.

Julio Urias could become the next Clayton Kershaw. It is obviously unfair to compare Urias to the future Hall of Famer. But their respective impacts on the Dodgers could prove to be similar if LA extends Urias to a long-term deal.

Shohei Ohtani free agency focus

The Dodgers want to bring Julio Urias back. He will be someone they look to re-sign next offseason. But Los Angeles can’t afford to make him a backup alternative for Shohei Ohtani in free agency. That would be far too risky.

The best bet would be to extend Urias prior to 2023 Opening Day. Yes, the Dodgers are facing luxury tax concerns. But they could solve those concerns with a trade.

Julio Urias is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. He’s only 26-years old and has already established himself as a force on the mound. But given his young age, he likely hasn’t even reached his peak yet. Losing a pitcher of his talent would be detrimental for the Dodgers.

There hasn’t been much talk in reference to a Julio Urias extension. But perhaps Andrew Friedman and the team will make something happen during Spring Training.