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What the Dodgers are getting in Tyler Glasnow

MLB: Game One-Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Salce Josh Salce is a Southern California native and lifelong Dodger fan. He is a recent graduate from UC San Diego with a B.S. in Cognitive Science, and is currently pursuing a career in baseball analytics and research. You can find more of his original work at medium.com/@joshsalce.

Even with the signing of Shohei Ohtani on Monday, the Dodgers are still in need of multiple starting pitchers. As discussed previously, they are in need of both upside and depth. While pitchers like Michael Wacha or Lucas Giolito fell on the side of depth, the Dodgers addressed their need for upside by acquiring ace Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Manuel Margot, and $4 million from the Rays. Going the other way are the young starter Ryan Pepiot and rookie outfielder Jonny DeLuca.

Glasnow signed a five-year, $136.5 million contract extension with the Dodgers to complete the trade.

Who is Tyler Glasnow?

Glasnow, currently 30 years old, is the former ace of the Tampa Bay Rays and newest addition to the Dodgers rotation. A native of Santa Clarita, California and a Hart High School alumni, Glasnow was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and was one of three players sent to the Rays in the infamous Chris Archer trade, where he has since blossomed into one of the top-performing but most injury-prone starting pitchers in the league. After his trade to Tampa Bay in 2018, Glasnow pitched to a 3.20 ERA over 71 starts while missing significant time in each full season, undergoing Tommy John Surgery in the summer of 2021.

During the 2022 season, Glasnow signed a two-year, $30.35 million extension that is set to expire after the 2024 season. As expected, the Rays shopped around to other teams after the first year to recoup young major-league talent in exchange for one year of Glasnow making $25 million.

What to expect

The good

The argument for why the Dodgers traded for Glasnow is fairly straightforward: he has one of the best arsenals amongst all starting pitchers. Since their inception, he has always ranked among the best by pitch-grading tools like Stuff+ and PitchingBot for starters, and his 2023 season has likely alleviated concerns about benefits from past foreign substance use or about major changes to his arsenal post-Tommy John surgery.

Glasnow’s primary pitches include a four-seam fastball in the top 10 of average velocity (96.5 mph) amongst starting pitchers, and a curveball that has been considered by Stuff+ to be consistently one of if not the best. In recent years, he has also added a slider that compliments his main offerings well, giving him a real three-pitch mix. Most of Glasnow’s “stuff” has been maintained upon returning from Tommy John Surgery in 2022, and he has kept his elite strikeout and swinging-strike rates with an above-average walk rate to boot. Though he gets hit hard when contact is made, the swing-and-miss he generates is consistently among the best along with his on-field results.

Tyler Glasnow performance, 2020-23

Year(s) IP ERA FIP K-BB rate SwStr rate Stuff+ Stuff+ rank
Year(s) IP ERA FIP K-BB rate SwStr rate Stuff+ Stuff+ rank
2020 57⅓ 4.08 3.66 29.0% 14.0% 156 1st
2021-22 94⅔ 2.57 2.79 28.4% 16.9% 137 2nd
2023 120 3.53 2.91 25.8% 16.4% 121 7th
Source: FanGraphs

The bad

While a huge acquisition, a trade for Glasnow still contains an extreme amount of injury risk. Since joining the Rays, each season has resulted in low innings totals, and failing to produce a single season more than 21 starts. He just set his career high in MLB innings at 120, just the second time he’s thrown at least 100 innings in a major league season. For reference, Glasnow’s 2023 total is seven innings shy of the average number of innings thrown by Clayton Kershaw from 2021-23. As a pro, Glasnow’s highest number of innings is 155⅓ split between the Pirates and their Triple-A affiliate in 2017.

Tyler Glasnow injury history

Year Injury Days missed Innings
Year Injury Days missed Innings
2019 Forearm/elbow tightness 121 60⅔
2020 n/a 0 57⅓
2021 Tommy John surgery 111 88
2022 Tommy John surgery 178 6⅔
2023 Left oblique strain 59 120
Source: Spotrac injury tracker

The Intriguing

With Glasnow in and Pepiot out, here are the Dodgers’ current starting pitching options:

  • Tyler Glasnow
  • Bobby Miller
  • Walker Buehler
  • Ryan Yarbrough
  • Emmet Sheehan
  • Gavin Stone
  • Michael Grove
  • Others: Kyle Hurt, Nick Frasso, Landon Knack

In a vacuum, this move potentially leaves the Dodgers rotation even more vulnerable than before. There is a lot of combined risk in the top three starters, as it is probable that Glasnow will miss time with injury and with Walker Buehler possibly facing an innings limit in his return from a second Tommy John surgery.

At worst, there is the possibility of multiple key starters being lost to season-ending injuries, which coincidentally happened to the Rays in 2023. Combine that with the uncertainty surrounding the roles of young pitchers Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Dodgers will be looking to acquire more pitching.

What’s interesting, though, is that there is arguably a need for two more starters in addition to Glasnow: one to provide low-risk depth (see Lucas Giolito), and another to provide quality innings in the middle of the rotation. Among the options for the latter are Jordan Montgomery, Marcus Stroman, and possibly Shota Imanaga. If acquired, this pitcher would have to stabilize the rotation in the time Glasnow or other starters are injured.

With the news of deferrals in Shohei Ohtani’s contract, the money to spend on this type of pitcher may still be available should an opportunity arise. Perhaps it means the Dodgers could instead sign top free agent starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto to provide another arm at the top of the rotation. In a way, the intriguing part of the trade for Glasnow is seeing if there will be a pitcher brought in to be relied on more when Glasnow does not pitch.

Conclusion

Overall, Tyler Glasnow fits the mold of a high-risk, high-reward pitcher. On the one hand, he is one of the most high-octane pitchers in the game who has the tools to consistently compete for the Cy Young Award. On the other hand, he realistically may not be able to pitch for an entire season, forcing more innings onto additional pitchers when he is injured. Perhaps the Dodgers, with their less-than-stellar record of pitcher health, have an idea of how to keep Glasnow healthy. Regardless, the Dodgers likely still have more work to do to sharpen their rotation before the first pitch of 2024 is thrown.