The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tyler Glasnow gamble

Tyler Glasnow will have to improve both his performance and his health to justify the money the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to commit to him.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow / Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In their trade for Tyler Glasnow and subsequent five-year, $110 million extension, the Los Angeles Dodgers are betting big that hope trumps experience. It is a bet they are almost guaranteed to lose.

The Dodgers got Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays along with outfielder Manuel Margot in exchange for pitcher Ryan Pepiot and outfield prospect Johnny Deluca.

The Dodgers inherit responsibility for the $25 million Glasnow is owed for 2024 plus a bit more than $25 million per year for the ensuing four seasons. Glasnow will be worth all of that if he pitches like a front-line ace. The problem is that he never has pitched like a front-line ace and there’s no reason to believe he’ll start now.

Like many pitchers with talented arms, injuries have always skewed the Tyler Glasnow equation

Since 2019, he has missed large chunks of four seasons with various arm ailments. As a result, in an age window (25 to 29) when he should have been at his most productive, he was limited to an average of about 65 innings per season.

At 120 innings, his high-water mark in terms of availability came last season when he made 21 starts for Tampa Bay before being sidelined by an oblique strain.

Given that workload, and based both on the 2023 average salary and average WAR for a 20-game starter, Glasnow was a $7.73 million pitcher for the Rays. That’s cost-effective; they only paid him $5.35 million.

The problem was that under terms of the two-year deal he had signed prior to 2023, Glasnow is due to pull down $20 million this coming season. To cost-justify that kind of money, he will have to pitch like a 5-WAR starter, which would basically require delivering an additional 60 innings while saving about three-quarters of a point off his usual 3.65 ERA. That would far surpass the 2.0 WAR he produced in 2023, so it ain’t happening.

The Rays know it, which is why they unloaded him. The Dodgers know it too. But with a far more substantial budgetary waste factor, they just don’t care.

And not only will Glasnow have to perform at that level in 2024, under terms of the contract now being finalized he’ll have to do it through at least 2028, when he will be 34. In short, the Dodgers are betting that a pitcher who has never stayed healthy for two full seasons — and who has never topped 21 starts or  120 innings — will this winter morph into a 30-start, 180 inning staff ace for the foreseeable future.

Again … ain’t happening.