The Dodgers have long seemed likely to lean on the services of right-hander Walker Buehler next season as he returns from rehabbing Tommy John surgery, which will have kept him away from the major league mound for nearly two years by the time Opening Day 2024 rolls around. While the club has recently bolstered its rotation with the additions of Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow, the club’s starting corps still offers little certainty beyond that duo, Buehler, and sophomore right-hander Bobby Miller even as youngsters like Emmet Sheehan and Gavin Stone show promise.
According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, the club may be more careful with Buehler’s return to action than initially expected. While the right-hander is expected to be at full strength for Spring Training, Plunkett indicates that the club intends to limit Buehler’s innings in 2024, though he relays comments from GM Brandon Gomes that indicate the club is likely to be “flexible” regarding the specific innings total Buehler is allowed to reach and his schedule for the 2024 campaign as a whole. Plunkett goes on to suggest that one possibility would be delaying the start of Buehler’s 2024 season in order to ensure he’ll be available to the Dodgers come October.
If the Dodgers do intend to have Buehler sit out the start of the season, it would further incentivize the club to add additional depth to its rotation even after landing both Yamamoto and Glasnow. Even if the club ends up reuniting with longtime ace Clayton Kershaw, the veteran lefty isn’t expected to return to the mound until sometime next summer after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Adding an additional starting pitching option who figures to be ready to go on Opening Day along with Yamamoto, Glasnow, and Miller would allow the club to have the likes of Sheehan, Stone, and Ryan Yarbrough battle for the fifth starting job entering the season rather than using them to cover multiple rotation spots.
More from around MLB’s West divisions…
- While he has re-upped with the Dodgers on one-year pacts each of the past two offseasons, it doesn’t appear that Kershaw’s return to L.A. is necessarily guaranteed, as Kershaw’s hometown Rangers have been frequently connected to the veteran lefty this offseason on the heels of their first World Series championship in franchise history. While the club already has Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle all targeting midseason returns from surgeries of their own, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Scherzer’s recent surgery hasn’t deterred the Rangers from their pursuit of the 3-time Cy Young Award winner. While Kershaw has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, he’s been as valuable as ever when he manages to take the mound with a 2.67 ERA and 3.23 FIP in 78 starts since the start of the 2020 season.
- Astros center field prospect Jacob Melton was a hot commodity on the trade market at the trade deadline this year, as noted by Chandler Rome of The Athletic. Rome relays comments from Houston GM Dana Brown who told a podcast run by the Astros that Melton was “the one guy [he] was afraid to give away” but that he was asked after in “almost every” trade conversation last summer. Rome goes on to note some officials in the organization internally valued him more highly than top prospect Drew Gilbert, who was part of the package the club dealt to New York to re-acquire Justin Verlander. Melton, 23, was the club’s second-round pick in the 2022 draft and slashed .245/.334/.467 across 99 games split between the High-A and Double-A levels last year.
- While the Giants ultimately fell short in their pursuit of Yamamoto, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the club was “in the mix right until the very end” and that Yamamoto was impressed enough with San Francisco’s pitch that the club would have been the “West Coast finalist” for his services had the Dodgers not entered the fray after signing Shohei Ohtani. A source indicated to Slusser that Ohtani’s presence on the Dodgers played a role in Yamamoto’s decision to ultimately sign with the club for a record-breaking $325MM guaranteed over twelve years.