clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dodgers taking a gamble on Tyler Glasnow

GM Brandon Gomes: “The combination of his work ethic and curiosity, getting all that together is a good recipe for future success.”

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers traded for Tyler Glasnow and signed him to a five-year contract extension, in hopes they will have a frontline starting pitcher for games in October. But there’s also the matter of getting there each season.

Glasnow is coming off a good season with the Rays in 2023, posting a 3.53 ERA and a 33.4-percent strikeout rate. He averaged 5.71 innings per start, a number reached by only Lance Lynn among Dodgers starting pitchers in 2023.

But Glasnow’s 21 starts and 120 innings in 2023 were both career highs. It was his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, and said that likely would have been around his innings limit anyway. But his innings were capped naturally by an oblique strain that sidelined him for the first two months of the season.

He also missed four months in 2019 with a forearm strain, a precursor to his Tommy John surgery two years later. Over the last five seasons, Glasnow’s 3.03 ERA ranks 11th among pitchers with a minimum of 300 innings. But he’s tied for 136th in starts (60) and ranks 141st in innings (332⅔)

Glasnow, by any objective measure, has been injury prone.

“Given the amount of innings and the amount of injuries in previous years, I think to say that is probably fair,” Glasnow said in a Zoom interview on Monday morning. “I would say the majority of the innings that I’ve missed had been related to the same injury. The first time that happened was 2019 was the first time I injured the UCL. It was just the same injury and happened to kind of later in 20, and then 21 again, and finally got it fixed. Ever since Tommy John, it’s felt amazing.”

The Dodgers are betting on Glasnow being amazing for a good portion of the next five seasons, having signed him for $136.5625 million, the third-largest guarantee for a pitcher* in franchise history, behind Clayton Kershaw (seven years, $215 million in 2014) and Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million in 2013).

*non-Shohei Ohtani division. He’s in his own category as a two-way player

“It was getting with our medical group and our performance staff and coaches, and hearing the history how those injuries actually played out,” Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said via Zoom. “Really focusing on his elbow and how it’s been handled. He’s feeling great, and understanding his body. Our group knows that the combination of his work ethic and curiosity, getting all that together is a good recipe for future success.”

Glasnow had one year remaining and $25 million on his contract with the Rays, and could have simply played that out to go into free agency, and hit the open market. But after a four-player trade was worked out last week between the Dodgers and Rays contingent on a contract extension, Glasnow’s market was only one — the team he grew up rooting for in Santa Clarita.

“It’s somewhere I wanted to be my entire life. There was a short list of teams I wanted to go to, and the Dodgers were on it,” Glasnow said. “They were very bullish in trying to get me, and I really appreciated that they thought so highly of me. I get to go home, I have my whole family there. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.”

From the Dodgers’ side, the contract extension was a must in the deal, because it didn’t make much sense to give up potentially five-plus seasons of Ryan Pepiot for one year of Glasnow. It’s just the scope of the contract for Glasnow, which added $111.5 million in new guaranteed money and four more years to his existing deal, that brought a bit of a sticker shock. But maybe this is the offseason for sticker shocks in Los Angeles.

Glasnow turned 30 in August, but only has 529⅔ major league innings under his belt, far fewer than any pitcher who has signed a contract in his range. More than Robbie Ray, who was fresh off winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2021 when he signed a five-year, $115 million contract with the Blue Jays.

“It was plenty of money. I was super happy with the money and it’s somewhere I’m super interested to be,” Glasnow said of his contract with the Dodgers. “I guess I was never super interested in trying to get as much as I possibly could. But it just worked out really well for me.”

Here are starting pitcher contracts signed over the last four offseasons in the range of Glasnow’s deal. All of these pitchers made at least one All-Star team, received Cy Young Award votes, or both at the point in their careers when they signed these deals, except for Glasnow, who has a higher average annual value than all of them.

Recent starting pitcher contracts comparable to Tyler Glasnow

Pitcher Contract AAV Year Age Career IP Career ERA+ Career WAR* Prev yr IP Prev yr ERA+ Prev yr WAR*
Pitcher Contract AAV Year Age Career IP Career ERA+ Career WAR* Prev yr IP Prev yr ERA+ Prev yr WAR*
Aaron Nola $172.0 $24.6 2024 31 1,422.0 113 33.0 193.7 96 3.0
Carlos Rodón $162.0 $27.0 2023 30 847.3 115 17.5 178.0 137 5.8
Tyler Glasnow $136.5 $27.3 2024 30 529.7 107 8.3 120.0 118 2.6
José Berríos $131.0 $18.7 2022 28 851.7 108 13.2 192.0 123 3.7
Robbie Ray $115.0 $23.0 2022 30 1,035.7 110 15.8 193.3 157 5.4
Kevin Gausman $110.0 $22.0 2022 31 1,177.3 105 18.4 192.0 147 5.0
Luis Castillo $108.0 $21.6 2023 30 857.7 124 18.2 150.3 136 3.7
Joe Musgrove $100.0 $20.0 2023 30 859.0 106 12.9 181.0 129 3.4
2021-24 offseasons *WAR is an average of Baseball Reference & FanGraphs

Glasnow also has far fewer innings and Wins Above Replacement, both in his career totals and in the year prior to signing the contract.

This table does not include contracts for multi-Cy-Young-Award winners Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander, as they are in their own categories and at least five years older than Glasnow.

But Glasnow is lumped in with those types of deals in a way. His $27.3 million average annual value is the 14th-highest among multi-year pitching contracts in baseball history (again, excluding Ohtani).

The baker’s dozen of contracts with a higher average annual value than Glasnow were signed by nine pitchers, with deGrom, Scherzer, Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw all inking two different deals in that lofty territory.

Largest multi-year pitching contracts, by average annual value

Pitcher Years AAV CY awards CY top-5
Pitcher Years AAV CY awards CY top-5
Max Scherzer 3 $43.3 3 8
Justin Verlander 2 $43.3 3 9
Jacob deGrom 5 $37.0 2 3
Gerrit Cole 9 $36.0 0 3
Stephen Strasburg 7 $35.0 0 2
Zack Greinke 6 $34.4 1 2
Trevor Bauer 3 $34.0 1 1
Justin Verlander 2 $33.0 2 8
David Price 7 $31.0 1 3
Clayton Kershaw 3 $31.0 3 7
Clayton Kershaw 7 $30.7 2 3
Max Scherzer 7 $30.0 1 2
Jacob deGrom 5 $27.5 2 2
Tyler Glasnow 5 $27.3 0 0
AAV in millions Source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Seven of these pitchers won at least one Cy Young Award. The two who didn’t were coming off incredible years and postseason runs in 2019 — Gerrit Cole to that point had three top-five Cy Young finishes, and Stephen Strasburg had two.

Glasnow has never received any Cy Young Award votes.

That’s not to say Glasnow isn’t a good pitcher. He’s been quite effective when healthy, with an excellent 35-percent strikeout rate over the last five years among his other accolades. He just hasn’t been able to stay on the mound for an entire season as a starting pitcher.

This deal represents a departure from a Dodgers front office that has been reticent to sign starting pitchers for longer than three years. In the first nine years of the Andrew Friedman-led front office, the only two starter contracts longer than three years were for Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48 million in 2015) and Kenta Maeda (eight years, $25 million plus loads of bonuses in 2016).

It’s not like Glasnow’s contract will necessarily prevent the Dodgers from spending more, even as they creep up into the highest competitive balance tax thresholds for 2024. Gomes noted that gaining Glasnow but losing Pepiot was a “one-for-one swap” in terms of rotation depth, and that the Dodgers are still in the market for more.

“We’re still looking to add talent and continuing to examine all avenues on the starting pitching front,” Gomes said. “Ultimately, it’s just about continuing to add as much pitching talent in depth as we possibly can.”

But the Dodgers are betting big on Glasnow being able to bring some sort of stability and performance going forward that the starting rotation sorely lacked in 2023.