One of the most gut-wrenching moments for the Dodgers this year was when Julio Urias went down with a significant shoulder injury. Early projections had him on track to return in July or August of the 2018 season.
When Julio Urias initially went down with his shoulder injury this year, it was widely assumed that he would be ready to return in July or August of the 2018 season. This meant that the Dodgers could not depend to get any contributions from Urias for the 2018 season. By this logic, the Dodgers would either have to count on their current surplus of starters, or they would need to go out and sign a starting pitcher to fill the void left by Yu Darvish’s likely departure.
Today there was some interesting news that came out of the New York Post, stating that some Dodger officials believe Julio Urias could be back in the majors as early as May of next season. This would be some off-season altering news if the Dodgers truly believe that Urias will return in May. If he did complete his come back in May, then the Dodgers would likely not add any starting pitchers this winter since their surplus of starting pitching depth would be able to get them through the first few months of the season.
Urias is still only going to turn 22 years old next year, so he still has plenty of youth on his side. The injury he is coming back from is arguably much worse than Tommy John surgery. Urias is attempting to return from a torn anterior capsule in his shoulder which is the same injury that derailed the careers of Johan Santana and Chien-Ming Wang. The good news is that there have been some successful returns from this injury like Michael Pineda who made it back to the major leagues and is still throwing in the mid to upper 90’s.
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The Dodgers definitely can not count on Urias to stay healthy due to the unknown nature of his injury. At the same time, the Dodgers organization has placed a lot of time and effort into keeping Urias fresh and healthy so they are going to give him every opportunity they can to let him make a triumphant return. The Dodgers will most likely monitor Urias’s innings next season, but since he will miss at least a month of the season, he should be able to finish the entire season in the rotation if he pitches well.
The effect that this could have on the front office’s winter is that they could choose to sign a depth starting pitcher or two but forego signing a big name starter like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. They could go into next season with their current roster and then trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline just as they did this year. Doing this would allow the Dodgers to get a look at Urias and not block any of their other starters like Walker Buehler by signing a free agent starter.
It has been thrown around in the media that the Dodgers may try to stay under the luxury tax next season due to the stiff penalties that occur if you spend consecutive season above the tax line. Urias being healthy would give the Dodgers another All-Star caliber starting pitcher and mitigate the need to add another top-tier starter. This would save the Dodgers lots of money and likely help them stay under the luxury tax line. This is, of course, assuming that the Dodgers believe Urias will be back before June.