Alex Wood Strong Bounce Back Candidate For Los Angeles Dodgers

LA Dodgers

Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a chance to trot out one of the premier rotations in baseball in 2020. A big part of that will be a familiar face.

In January, the Dodgers struck a deal to bring back an old friend, Alex Wood, on a one-year, $4 million deal which can shoot up to $10 million if he hits all his incentives.

Wood, 29, was traded by the Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds after the 2018 season along with outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and catcher Kyle Farmer in exchange for pitchers Homer Bailey, Josiah Gray and infielder Jeter Downs.

The herky-jerky southpaw appeared in just seven games for the Reds, however, as he battled a back injury and was sidelined a majority of the season.

While Wood certainly comes with a risk factor, it made sense for the Dodgers to bring him back on a low-risk, high-reward deal to see if he can reestablish himself.

From 2015-18, (the time Wood was acquired by the Dodgers to the time he was traded to the Reds), the North Carolina native put up 7.1 fWAR, topped off by a strong 2017 season where he had a 2.72 ERA, 3.32 FIP and 3.34 xFIP in 152.1 innings pitched.

The Dodgers rotation will likely be led by a 1,2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, followed by newly acquired David Price. The last two spots could see some moving parts.

Who is Wood’s rotation competition?

The Dodgers lost a couple rotation options this winter, as Rich Hill signed with the Minnesota Twins and Kenta Maeda was traded there in the three-team Mookie Betts blockbuster.

However, along with Wood, they also brought in another reclamation project in Jimmy Nelson who, if fully healthy, could be impactful.

In house, they have a few names who could see time in the rotation: the youngster Dustin May, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Ross Stripling, the latter of which remains on the team after his trade to the Los Angeles Angels fell through.

Brusdar Graterol, who was also acquired in the Betts trade, has experience starting from his time in the minor leagues, but likely projects long term as a reliever.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 07: Relief pitcher Dustin May #85 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning during the MLB game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

A deeper dive into the candidates

Like Wood, Nelson too is looking to stay healthy in 2020, though the road back has been a bit more extensive.

After debuting in 2013, the first few years of Nelson’s career saw flashes of potential but not dominant success. That was until 2017, when Nelson put up 4.8 fWAR in 29 games started for the Milwaukee Brewers. It was bittersweet, however, as Nelson blew out his arm and subsequently missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just 10 games in 2019.

The Dodgers inked Nelson to a $1.4 million deal with a 2021 club option this winter. However, Nelson might not be ready out of the gate due to groin and lower back tightness. If he is, he could start the season as a reliever and ease his way back in.

Next is the 22-year-old May, who debuted in 2019, but still has his rookie status in tact. In fact, he is ranked as the Dodgers No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 23 in the game.

May is currently working his way back from a side injury, but has made progress, including throwing catch on Thursday.

The Texas native logged 0.9 fWAR to go along with a 3.63 ERA and 2.90 FIP in 14 games (four started) for the Dodgers in 2019.

Last is Urias, who pitched primarily out of the bullpen last season, but also missed time due to a domestic violence issue. In 37 games (eight started), Urias had 1.4 fWAR, a 2.49 ERA, 3.43 FIP and 4.28 xFIP across 79.2 innings pitched.

Prediction

If everything breaks right coming out of camp in a few weeks, Wood will likely be in the Dodgers rotation.

Wood being part of their rotation seemed like the plan from day one due to the incentives they doled out to him, but with the lingering, albeit minor, injuries to May and Nelson, Wood’s competition is now significantly smaller.

Long term, it’s feasible to see May in the rotation as well as he is the team’s future, and Nelson could slide in there too if he can show he can be effective like he was a few years ago.

Short term, due to the injuries, Wood could be sharing a rotation with one of Gonsolin or Stripling.

Regardless, having several capable pitchers to fill out a rotation is not a bad thing, and as the old baseball mantra goes, you can never have enough pitching.

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