Dodgers: What’s Tony Gonsolin’s future in Los Angeles?

Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

A lot has been said about the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ pitching depth heading into 2021.

The addition of Trevor Bauer has made the potential roles for Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin a bit less clear.

And if there was an “odd man out” of that bunch, most would agree it’s Gonsolin, who despite an impressive “rookie” campaign in 2020 (he debuted in 2019 but won Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year award in ’20), wasn’t very helpful in the postseason and doesn’t exactly have “stuff” that’s anywhere near comparable to Urias or May.

So might we ask what the right-hander’s future with the Dodgers is, especially if May or Urias are the frontrunners for the No. 5 spot in the rotation?

How does Tony Gonsolin fit with the Dodgers moving forward?

The 26-year-old has appeared in 20 games for the Dodgers over the past two seasons, with 14 of those being starts. Here are his splits as a starter and a reliever:

  • As starter: 4-3 with a 2.33 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 69.2 innings. Opposing hitters slashed .185/.235/.293.
  • As reliever: 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings. Opposing hitters slashed .271/.349/.621

As you can see, he’s considerably worse in a relief role, but still very manageable. But do the Dodgers really want to use him like that? Wouldn’t he be a better trade chip, given his success in their rotation and the endless need for starters across MLB?

In so many instances over the years, we’ve seen talented arms like Gonsolin get shuttled between the rotation and bullpen, and rarely does it work. The Dodgers are a bit of a different story, though, because they seem to maximize just about everyone’s potential regardless of the role, but all of the team’s bullpen additions might tell a different story.

LA brought in Corey Knebel, Tommy Kahnle, Garrett Cleavinger and Alex Vesia, brought back Blake Treinen and Scott Alexander, and expect more from guys like Mitch White, Victor Gonzalez and Brusdar Graterol. The philosophy of “having too many arms can never hurt” is prevalent these days, but is having Gonsolin battle with all of these guys at some point in 2021 for innings while waiting for a void in the rotation to open really the best use for him?

Perhaps Gonsolin fills the role of a spot starter and multi-inning reliever to further support the rotation. Remember, Clayton Kershaw has been a bit limited over the last few years due to back issues, Walker Buehler dealt with blisters that affected his length in 2020, we don’t really know what to expect from David Price after he missed all of 2020, and May and Urias have never been full-time starters.

Couple that with pitchers being disadvantaged after the shortened 2020 season, and Gonsolin could have a lot of opportunities. Factor in Kershaw’s free agency, Bauer’s opt-out clause, and Price only being in town through 2022, and the right-hander could have a full-time job in the rotation within the next year or two.

He possesses a four-pitch mix that makes him a great Swiss Army knife for the pitching staff or an intriguing trade chip. We don’t know what the future holds, but it’s clear he can be serviceable in multiple roles or help the Dodgers get a valuable return in a hypothetical trade.