Dodgers follow up Shohei Ohtani signing with trade for Rays RHP Tyler Glasnow

The Los Angeles Dodgers followed their Shohei Ohtani deal with a trade for one of the top pitchers available on Thursday.

The Tampa Bay Rays are sending right-hander Tyler Glasnow and center fielder Manuel Margot to Los Angeles in exchange for young pitcher Ryan Pepiot and outfielder Jonny Deluca, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The deal was contingent on Glasnow signing an extension with the Dodgers, and as of Friday, a five-year, $135 million contract is being finalized, per Passan.

Starting pitching loomed as a major need for the Dodgers this winter. Ohtani will not pitch in 2024 after undergoing UCL surgery at the end of last season, and the Los Angeles rotation was composed entirely of young pitchers (Pepiot, Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove, Gavin Stone) and Tommy John surgery patients (Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May).

Glasnow gives the Dodgers a pitcher with ace potential and major health concerns at the cost of one of those young arms, and Margot will fill another hole as a right-handed bat in the outfield. Even after this deal, though, the Dodgers might look for another starting pitcher in free agency.

Tyler Glasnow headshot
Tyler Glasnow
SP - LAD - #31
2023 - false season

The most intriguing part of Tampa Bay's return is Pepiot, who entered the 2023 MLB season ranked No. 70 on MLB's top-100 prospects list. He was called up in August and put up a 2.14 ERA over 42 innings. Pepiot wasn't an elite strikeout artist, whiffing 38 batters in those 42 innings, but he did display excellent command, giving up just 5 walks. Home runs were an issue, however, as he allowed 7 in his brief time in the majors. At 26, Pepiot still has some room to grow, and the Rays have a decent track record of targeting pitchers the team believes it can improve.

Ryan Pepiot headshot
Ryan Pepiot
SP - TB - #44
2023 - false season

Deluca, 25, held his own in the majors as a rookie last season, posting a .262/.311/.429 slash line over 45 plate appearances. He posted strong on-base and slugging numbers in the minors last year, though he was old for his level.

The 30-year-old Glasnow was slated to become a free agent next offseason but instead will spend the next several years in L.A. Margot's contract holds a $12 million mutual option for 2025, with a $2 million buyout.

This trade follows a familiar arc for the Rays, as Glasnow ($25 million) and Margot ($10 million) carried two of their three largest salaries for the 2024 season. Those spots will instead be filled by a pair of pre-arb youngsters. Pepiot holds a 2.76 ERA in 17 career appearances (10 starts) with the Dodgers, and DeLuca hit .262/.311/.429 in 24 games last season.

Tyler Glasnow can pitch, but staying on the mound has been another story

The idea of Glasnow has always been tantalizing. A 6-foot-8 right-hander with a fastball that averaged 96.4 mph last season, he ranks third in MLB in strikeout rate, at 35.4%, among pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched over the last four seasons, topped only by Jacob deGrom and Spencer Strider.

That propensity for strikeouts, combined with the Rays’ consistently excellent defense, has made Glasnow one of the most effective pitchers in baseball when on the mound. He holds a 3.20 ERA in six seasons with Tampa Bay, with his only peripheral flaw being mediocre exit velocity stats often negated by the Rays' defense.

Glasnow does it with a three-pitch mix of a four-seamer that induces ground balls, a curveball that induces whiffs and a slider that induces both ground balls and whiffs.

It all sounds pretty good. Unfortunately, that earlier qualifier of “when on the mound” has proven to be quite the rub in Glasnow’s career, along with some lackluster postseason performances, given his 5.72 ERA in 10 playoff starts.

Glasnow pitched 120 innings in 2023. That was a career high. In his five seasons as a full-time starting pitcher for the Rays, he has undergone Tommy John surgery and spent time on the injured list due to a forearm strain, an elbow sprain and an oblique strain. He has averaged 12 starts and 67 innings across that span. With the Dodgers committing to Glasnow long-term, those issues are going to be a major question for the team's future.

The Rays just keep doing this

The Rays have this down to a science: Trade for prospects and younger players whom their scouting and analytics team likes, enjoy their production in their pre-arbitration years and maybe some of their arb years, trade them away for younger players when their arb salaries begin to resemble star compensation, and then begin the whole cycle over.

Glasnow completed his go-around with this trade. The Rays acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were using him as a reliever, alongside Austin Meadows and Shane Baz in the comically one-sided Chris Archer trade. After making $18 million total in his career thus far, Glasnow was set to make $25 million next season as part of the two-year extension he signed with Tampa Bay before returning from Tommy John surgery.

Naturally, that price was above the Rays' liking, just as it was for so many other players they couldn't lock down on cheap deals early in their careers. The result is a team that has never started a season with a payroll above $100 million, posted a record above .500 in six straight years and reached the World Series in 2020 but hasn't won a playoff series since. That all seems acceptable to the Tampa Bay brass.