Beyond the Monster: Red Sox Acquire Ugueth Urbina in '01 to Become Team's Closer


Beyond the Monster is an ongoing series where we take you back in time and look at moments in Red Sox history.

On December 23, 2012, Juan Urbina sent a single tweet, “Finalmente con mi Padre!”.  That translates to “Finally with my father”.  The young Urbina tweeted that because his father, former Red Sox closer Ugueth Urbina, was finally released from prison. 

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Back in 2007, the elder Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family’s ranch.  Urbina was sentenced to prison for joining a group of men in attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family's ranch in Venezuela. 

Before all that played out with Urbina, he was a dominant closer for the Expos.  Urbina spent seven years with the Expos before being traded to the Boston Red Sox back in 2001.  The Red Sox acquired the all-star closer at the trade deadline sending starter Tomokazu Ohka and Rich Rundles to Montreal for Urbina. 

The deal at the time gave the Red Sox a legitimate closer at the back of their pen.  He wouldn’t be enough for the Red Sox because they would finish the season 13.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. 

The Red Sox needed to get help in the bullpen due to the struggles of Derek Lowe that season.  While Lowe would end the season with 24 saves for the Red Sox, it was down from the previous season where he nailed down 42 games for the Sox. 
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At the time of the deal, Urbina was 2-1 with 15 saves and a 4.24 ERA for the Expos.  Urbina was coming off a year where he had reconstructive elbow surgery so there was risk on the part of Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette to add the talented righty. 

This trade almost never happened had the Yankees gotten their way.  Earlier in the season, the Yankees and Expos agreed to a deal that was going to send Urbina to the Bronx.  The Expos agreed to acquire minor leaguers D’Angelo Jimenez and Brandon Knight. 

Ultimately the deal fell apart after the medicals on Urbina concerned the Yankees and the Expos didn’t like the results from Knight’s medical tests.  The deal was subsequently called off and it would later become a Red Sox gain. 

The Red Sox only having to give up Ohka and Rundles wasn’t an exactly a huge haul for the Expos.  At the time of the deal Ohka, who was 25, was 2-5 with a 6.19 ERA and was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket for his lackluster season. 

When the Red Sox acquired Ohka back in 1998, he became the first player from Japan to play for the team.  Ohka threw a nine-inning perfect game for the PawSox back in 2000.  Ohka retired all 27 Charlotte Knights batters he faced.  

During his stint in Boston, Ohka was 6-13 with a 4.61 ERA in 33 starts.  He would have better stats during his time with the Expos/Nationals in five years with that organization. 

The Urbina deal was a good deal for the Red Sox and ultimately did not give up a lot to acquire his services.  If that deal was made in present day, Urbina would have gotten a haul back for the Expos. 

Urbina himself had a decent short career in Boston.  He saved 49 games for the Red Sox while pitching to a 2.81 ERA.  He left Boston in 2003 as a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers.  The Red Sox decided to let Urbina walk because they felt there was no budget for a closer in Urbina.  General manager Theo Epstein decided to take the "Closer by Committee" approach.  This approach was a disaster in 2003 if Red Sox fans remember correctly.  This isn’t the time or place to talk about that. 

Urbina would only play a half-season in Texas.  He was traded again mid-season, this time to the surging Florida Marlins. 

In the deal that sent Urbina to Miami, the Rangers acquired familiar face Adrian Gonzalez in the swap.  Urbina served as a setup man for closer Braden Looper.  He posted a combined record of 3-4 with 32 saves and a 2.81 ERA in 54 appearances during the 2003 season.

The Marlins would win the 2003 World Series that year, defeating the New York Yankees in six games. 

In 11 years in the majors, including seven seasons with the Montreal Expos, Urbina compiled a 3.45 earned run average in 6971/3 innings.  Urbina led the National League with 41 saves in 1999.

In his short time with Boston Urbina gave the Red Sox a legit closer in the bullpen.  Epstein and his front office decided to take the money they would have spent on Urbina and invest that into their offense.  When Urbina left, the Red Sox signed Mike Timlin for their bullpen and brought back Alan Embree.  Both of those players had memorable times with the Red Sox, including that 2004 World Series championship. 

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Beyond the Monster: Red Sox Acquire Ugueth Urbina in '01 to Become Team's Closer
Beyond the Monster: Red Sox Acquire Ugueth Urbina in '01 to Become Team's Closer
Boston Sports Syndicate
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