With the ink officially dry on Shohei Ohtani’s record-setting, mind-bending $700 million contract, the new offseason priority for the Los Angeles Dodgers became addressing their starting rotation. And it didn’t take long for president Andrew Friedman to get to work: According to a report for Ken Rosenthal, L.A. has acquired hard-throwing righty Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays along with outfielder Manuel Margot in exchange for righty Ryan Pepiot and outfielder Jonny Deluca.
BREAKING: The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays are in agreement on a trade to send RHP Tyler Glasnow and OF Manuel Margot to the Dodgers for RHP Ryan Pepiot and OF Jonny Deluca -- contingent on Glasnow signing an extension with L.A., which is expected, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 15, 2023
Since coming to the Rays via trade back in 2018, the 30-year-old Glasnow has emerged as one of the most electric arms in baseball — when healthy, at least. He’s pitched to a 3.03 ERA over the past five years, but he’s also made just 60 starts over the span, with a forearm strain wiping out most of 2019 and Tommy John surgery costing him much of 2021 and 2022. This past season was much of the same: An oblique strain suffered during spring training kept him out until late May, but he was largely great upon his return, posting a 3.53 ERA with 162 strikeouts in 120 innings of work. Margot, meanwhile, doesn’t do much damage at the plate — his .686 OPS in 2023 was pretty much identical to his .694 career mark — but he can play all three outfield positions and provides a righty alternative to James Outman and Jason Heyward.
Long one of L.A.’s better pitching prospects, Pepiot has shined in short stints in the Majors in each of the last two years. He posted a sparkling 2.14 ERA over 42 innings in eight appearances (three starts) in 2023, finally ironing out the command issues that had long hampered him. Deluca is something of a Margot clone — light bat, good speed and defense — but, of course, cheaper and younger. (These are the Rays, after all.)
Given the state of its rotation — and the urgency of winning with Ohtani in his prime — the Dodgers desperately needed an impact starter to put atop its rotation. But was Glasnow the right choice? Where does this leave Los Angeles moving forward? And what does it mean for a Rays team that once again finds itself retooling on the fly while attempting to remain competitive? Let’s break it all down.
Tyler Glasnow trade grades
This grade certainly isn’t a reflection on Glasnow’s talent; with a high-90s fastball and two wipeout breaking balls, his ceiling is as high as just about anyone. But trades don’t happen in a vacuum; they’re about opportunity cost, and from that vantage point I’m not sure this moves the needle enough given what L.A. had to give up — both in terms of talent and resources.
Ohtani won’t take the mound again until 2025 after undergoing elbow surgery. Clayton Kershaw remains a free agent and just underwent a shoulder operation at age 36. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May both went down with arm injuries this summer and are set to miss at least some if not all of 2024. Walker Buehler hasn’t pitched since needing Tommy John surgery in early 2022. The young duo of Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan have tons of promise, but neither of them have thrown more than 140 innings in a single season. What the Dodgers needed most was reliability, a guy they could count on to take the ball every fifth day and anchor a rotation long on potential but short on certainty (and workload).
Glasnow, for as good as he is when he’s on, isn’t that. He simply hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy over a full season, or that he can hold up in the playoffs; his 120 innings last season were a career high, and L.A. will likely have to manage his workload carefully with an eye toward October. They also had to give up a promising young pitchers in Pepiot (in order to get this deal done, leaving the numbers game exactly where it already was — and requiring Friedman to land at least one but likely two more pitchers this winter.
Maybe the Dodgers will do just that; they still have some money to spend after all, and they’re among the rumored finalists for Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But Glasnow is due some $25 million in 2024, pretty much all of the savings L.A. gained from Ohtani’s unique deferral structure. And if they miss out on Yamamoto, suddenly they find themselves resorting to fall-back options like Lucas Giolito or Michael Wacha — guys they can’t necessarily count on taking the ball for a postseason start. Friedman has always been reluctant to spend big on free-agent pitching, but given this team’s particular needs, I would’ve liked to see them go after another trade candidate like Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, Chicago’s Dylan Cease or even Cleveland’s Shane Bieber. Given Margot’s peculiar fit here as well — he doesn’t hit lefties particularly well, making him a confusing choice for an outfield platoon partner at a cost of $10 million — this feels like a rare misfire from one of the game’s best front offices.
The song remains the same for Tampa Bay: Find and develop talent, build a contender around that talent, trade them ahead of free agency for younger, cheaper versions and then start the whole process over again. The Rays were never going to resign Glasnow in free agency next winter; instead, president Erik Neander flips him for Pepiot, a righty four years Glasnow’s junior who’s under team control through 2028. Margot, too, was entering the final year of his deal, and so Neander exchanged him for Deluca, another blazer in center field who makes lots of contact but is unlikely to ever become more than average (if that) at the plate.
This is what the Rays do, and they’ve become awfully good at it — as evidenced by their five consecutive postseason appearances. If the command gains Pepiot made late in 2023 stick moving forward — and Tampa Bay is as good at pitching development as just about anyone around — he profiles as a mid-rotation starter moving forward. Landing him is good value for a pitcher with just one year of team control remaining and a laundry list of injury issues in his recent past, and he should slot in nicely alongide Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Taj Bradley and the returning Shane Baz. (Here’s your reminder that Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs are all recovering from elbow surgery, with McClanahan not expected to return until 2025.) It’s hard to get too excited about the Rays’ constant roster churn, but their shoestring budget demands that they always stay one step ahead, and it’s hard to imagine them getting much more than this in return for two pending free agents.