Urshela, 26, was designated for assignment by the Indians after he being activated from the 10-day disabled list. Cleveland pretty clearly dragged out the process of making a decision on him as long as possible, sending him on an 11-game rehab assignment to Triple-A Columbus, but ultimately the Indians were unable to find a spot for him on the 25-man roster and had to let him go.
Urshela was a victim of rather odd circumstances in Cleveland, being called up to serve as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2015 as the Indians were going through a transitional period. While the overwhelming consensus when Urshela was first called up was that he was not major-league ready at the plate — and he proved that by posting a .225/.279/.330 slash line as a rookie — he held his own defensively and looked to have a bright future. In 2016, the Indians brought in veteran Juan Uribe to start the season as their third baseman so Urshela could have more time to develop as a hitter in the minors.
However, Jose Ramirez came out of nowhere and turned into one of the best hitters in the majors, wrestling the position away from Uribe by midseason. Urshela didn’t end up seeing any major-league action that season, and though he returned to the majors in 2017 — seeing action at third when Jason Kipnis got hurt and Ramirez moved to second, while also filling in on a limited basis at the three other infield positions — he didn’t show any progression at the plate, posting a .224/.262/.288 slash line with one homer in 165 plate appearances.
The Blue Jays’ infield has been ravaged by injuries and poor performance this season, with the most prominent development being shoulder inflammation that forced Josh Donaldson to spend some time on the disabled list last month and has limited him to 12 starts at third base this season. Devon Travis, their Opening Day second baseman, was optioned to Triple-A on April 29 after posting a .148/.212/.246 slash line to start the year. Aledmys Diaz, who started at shortstop in the season opener, was placed on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain on Tuesday.
Middle infielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 24, and Richard Urena, 22, pretty clearly need a little bit more minor-league seasoning, so the addition of Urshela reduces the pressure on them to contribute. In addition, Urshela’s experience at third base gives the Blue Jays the flexibility to use Donaldson as a designated hitter if necessary while using utility man Yangervis Solarte — who has started 24 games at third this season — in the middle infield. For what it’s worth, Urshela started at least two games at every infield position during his minor-league rehab stint earlier this season, so he should provide some coverage everywhere.