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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Dodgers, Rays Agree To Tyler Glasnow Trade; Extension With Dodgers Expected

The Dodgers and Rays are in agreement on a trade that would send right-hander Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Manuel Margot and $4MM to Los Angeles, with right-hander Ryan Pepiot and outfielder Jonny Deluca going to Tampa. The deal is contingent on Glasnow signing an extension with the Dodgers, which is reportedly expected to get done.

Glasnow has been in trade rumors for weeks but this framework of players was reported on yesterday, but without a deal being completed before the end of the day. Passan reports that the extension window opened Thursday morning. The details of the extension talks aren’t publicly known but it seems there is some optimism that it will get done, and the trade along with it. Glasnow is from the Los Angeles area initially, which could perhaps help to facilitate a deal. The trade-and-extend path is rare in baseball but not entirely unprecedented. The Reds took this path with Sonny Gray going into 2019, acquiring him and signing him to a three-year extension.

The right-handed Glasnow has already signed one extension in his career, which is how this situation developed. In August of 2022, as he was coming back from Tommy John surgery, the Rays and Glasnow agreed to an extension. It would pay him $5.35MM in 2023, his final year of arbitration eligibility, and then a big jump to $25MM in 2024. Glasnow had battled significant health issues in his career but was able to lock in a huge payday before fully returning from surgery and re-establishing his health. The Rays, meanwhile, got an extra year of control by betting on Glasnow’s eventual return.

Glasnow did return to the mound late in that 2022 season, making two regular season starts and then another in the postseason. Here in 2023, he was healthy enough to take the ball 21 times and registered a 3.53 earned run average. The Rays subsequently lost plenty of other starting pitchers, with each of Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs undergoing significant elbow surgery in 2023.

All those factors combined to put the club in a tight spot, along with the finances. They have never run a payroll beyond the $80MM range, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but came into the offseason projected for something closer to $120MM. Moving Glasnow and his $25MM salary in 2024 was one of the most straightforward ways for the club to cut costs, but that would only exacerbate their rotation concerns. Reports in recent weeks had suggested they were looking to acquire younger, cheaper pitching in any Glasnow deal. They have accomplished that with this trade and have also done the same thing in the outfield.

For the Dodgers, they already made the biggest splash of the offseason by landing Shohei Ohtani, but he isn’t going to pitch in 2024 due to his recent elbow surgery. Even after that lengthy Ohtani courtship, they still had a lot of work to do in their rotation. Lance Lynn, Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw all reached free agency at season’s end. Kershaw has re-signed with the club many times before but he is recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him out until at least the middle of the season. Dustin May is in a similar position after his flexor tendon surgery and Tommy John revision. Tony Gonsolin had Tommy John surgery and could miss all of 2024.

That left the club with Walker Buehler, who missed all of 2023 due to his own TJS, and Bobby Miller as their rotation core coming into the offseason. They had other options, including Pepiot, Michael Grove, Ryan Yarbrough, Emmet Sheehan and Gavin Stone, but it was obviously an area for the club to target this winter.

Glasnow now hasn’t been the picture of health in his career. His 120 innings pitched in 2023 were actually a career high. But a lot of that is due to the pandemic limiting him to 11 starts in 2020, and then the TJS impacting the two seasons after. In 2023, he did miss time with an oblique strain but his arm seemed to be fine.

His results on a rate basis have been very strong. Going back to the start of 2019, he has a 3.03 ERA. He struck out 35% of batters faced in that time, walked just 7.7% and kept 47.2% of balls in play on the ground. The Dodgers have generally been unafraid to gamble on talented arms with injury risk and Glasnow is the latest example of that.

The club will also bolster their outfield mix in this deal. With Mookie Betts moving to second base essentially full-time next year, the club’s outfield mix consisted of James Outman in center with Chris Taylor and Jason Heyward projected for the corners. Heyward had a nice bounceback season in 2023 but did so while the Dodgers shielded him from left-handed pitching.

Margot hits from the right side and should fit in nicely then. He has generally been a subpar hitter overall but does well with the platoon advantage. He’s hit .281/.341/.420 against lefties in his career for a 109 wRC+ compared to an 82 wRC+ and .244/.294/.370 line against righties.

He’s generally been a strong defender in his career. The grades for his glovework slipped a bit in 2023 but he was coming off a 2022 that he mostly missed due to a significant strain of the patellar tendon in his right knee. The Dodgers will likely be hoping that he’s able to post better results now that he’s further removed from that injury, but if he’s due for a part-time role, it won’t be devastating if that doesn’t come to fruition.

For the Rays, this is a classic trade for them. Due to their low payrolls, they often find themselves trading away players as their salaries increase and they get closer to free agency. The hope is always to acquire players that are younger, cheaper and with more club control, though they are also less established at the big league level. Glasnow is set to make $25MM next year while Margot is still owed $12MM, which includes a $10MM salary in 2024 and a $2MM buyout on a 2025 club option. Since they are including $4MM in the deal, this will save them $33MM, while hopefully keeping the talent on the roster minimally impacted.

Pepiot, 26, was a third-round pick in the 2019 draft and subsequently became a top 100 prospect. In 2022, he was able to throw 91 1/3 innings in Triple-A with a 2.56 ERA and 30.9% strikeout rate. He also made his major league debut, with a 3.47 ERA in his first 36 1/3 innings. While Gonsolin was sidelined to start the 2023 season, Pepiot was named the club’s fifth starter out of spring. Unfortunately, he then suffered an oblique strain that kept him on the injured list until August. He eventually tossed 42 more innings at the big league level with a 2.14 ERA.

The young righty has just over a year of service time, meaning he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2025 and won’t reach free agency until after 2028 at the earliest. He also still has an option remaining, which gives the club some flexibility if they feel he needs some more seasoning, since he has just 78 1/3 innings of major league experience.

But he would likely project to be in the club’s Opening Day rotation right now. They could make more moves between now and then, but they currently have Zach Eflin and Aaron Civale as the most seasoned in the bunch. Zack Littell has been around a few years but only recently moved from the bullpen to the rotation. Shane Baz missed all of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery but should be back in 2024, perhaps with workload concerns. Taj Bradley is also part of the calculus but he had an underwhelming debut in 2023. Amid all of those questions, there should be a path for Pepiot to carve out a role for himself, though subsequent transactions could perhaps make that more challenging.

Deluca, 25, has 24 games of major league experience to this point. He only walked in 6.7% of his plate appearances but also kept his strikeouts down to a 17.8% clip. His .262/.311/.429 batting line translated to a wRC+ of 102. He has performed very well in the minors over the past two years. Since the start of 2022, he’s appeared in 171 games on the farm with 42 home runs, a 10.4% walk rate and 16.7% strikeout rate. His .274/.365/.552 batting line in that time leads to a 135 wRC+.

He still has a couple of options but could try to earn himself a job in the big leagues this year. The club’s outfield projects to include Jose Siri, Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe, with Luke Raley and others also in the mix. Arozarena has also been in trade rumors but this deal could perhaps lessen the needs for the Rays to continue dropping the payroll.

Ultimately, none of this is confirmed, as it all stills hinges on the Glasnow extension getting done. Though there’s optimism around getting that over the finish line, no details about those talks have filtered out yet. Assuming it is completed, the Rays will have done what they always do, cycling out expensive players for cheaper ones that they hope to mold to a similar talent level. The Dodgers are picking up win-now pieces, while the Glasnow extension will help them down the road as well. Buehler is slated for free agency after 2024 but Glasnow could perhaps be joined by Gonsolin and May by then, while some of the other young arms while hopefully have blossomed in the interim.

Both clubs likely still have significant moves to make in the months to come. The Dodgers still could use some more starting pitching, even with Glasnow in the fold, while the Rays could perhaps use their cost savings to pursue rotation additions of their own.

Jon Heyman of The New York Post first relayed that a Glasnow extension was a possibility. Jeff Passan of ESPN relayed that the deal was agreed to, contingent on that Glasnow extension. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first relayed the inclusion of the $4MM.


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