Dodgers right-hander Dustin May will undergo surgery on his right elbow to repair the flexor tendon later this month, per a team announcement. The surgery will bring an end to May’s 2023 campaign. Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic adds that May will also undergo a Tommy John revision for a Grade 2 UCL sprain, noting that the Dodgers hope May will be able to return midseason in 2024.
The right-hander initially went on the injured list back in May with a flexor pronator strain that offered an initial recovery timeline of just four to six weeks. That, of course, didn’t come to pass. L.A. placed May on the 60-day injured list less than a week later, a move that suggested the injury could be more significant than the club initially believed and pushed the earliest possible date for May’s return until after the All-Star break. Now, the question of May’s return to action will be pushed to the 2024 campaign.
It’s a serious blow to the club’s rotation, as May posted an impressive 2.63 ERA (68% better than league average by ERA+) and a 3.27 FIP in 48 innings of work this season prior to his placement on the IL. May is far from the only arm in the club’s rotation picture who’s struggling with injuries or ineffectiveness, as well. Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are both on the shelf at the moment, while Walker Buehler and Ryan Pepiot have yet to throw a pitch for the club this season.
Meanwhile, Julio Urias is coming off a six-week trip to the IL of his own and has struggled to a 4.94 ERA and 5.30 FIP in the 11 starts he’s made this season. Tony Gonsolin has mostly pitched well this season, with a 3.69 ERA in 61 innings, but has also spent time on the injured list and owns a 9.42 ERA across his last three starts. Youngsters Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove and Gavin Stone have been tasked with picking up the rotation’s slack to mixed results; while Miller and Sheehan have largely proved to be successful, Grove and Stone haven’t done the same. Altogether, the quartet of prospects has posted a 6.01 ERA in 106 1/3 innings this season.
The Dodgers were already widely expected to pursue pitching upgrades ahead of the trade deadline on Aug. 1, and Tuesday’s news should only increase the club’s urgency in that regard. It’s hard to say with certainty which players will be available, given the number of teams that have yet to commit to selling. That being said, Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly of the Cubs, Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals, and Lucas Giolito of the White Sox are among the names that have garnered the most speculation to this point in the season.
Of course, there are plenty of names that would bolster weak Dodgers pitching staff that sports a bullpen ERA of 4.48 (third-worst in the NL) in addition to the aforementioned rotation struggles, including relief arms like Reynaldo Lopez of the White Sox and Scott Barlow of the Royals. Considering the club’s 47-37 record that puts them just two games back in the NL West and gives them possession of the second NL wild-card spot, the Dodgers are well -positioned to make impactful adds to their pitching staff over the next few weeks.
In the longer term, May’s injury leaves an additional question mark for the Dodgers as they look ahead to 2024. The club’s starting rotation is slated to lose Kershaw, Urias and Syndergaard to free agency this offseason. Buehler (who figures to pitch his first full season back from Tommy John surgery next year) and Gonsolin seem poised to occupy two spots in the club’s starting group.
While it seems reasonable to expect at least one empty slot in the rotation to be dedicated to the club’s current crop of youngsters, that still leaves two vacancies for the club to fill in its rotation for Opening Day 2024, whether that be by way of re-signing one of their outgoing free agents, dipping into the rest of a deep free-agent pitching class or by acquiring an arm controlled beyond this season via trade. Of course, the Dodgers are widely expected to have interest in two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani when he hits the open market after the 2023 campaign comes to an end. However, Ohtani has pitched exclusively as a member of a six-man rotation during his time in the majors, meaning his hypothetical addition wouldn’t change the club’s need for additional arms.