The Dodgers have announced that lefty Alex Wood will “undergo an arthroscopic debridement” of his pitching elbow. The southpaw is expected to miss eight weeks after the surgery is complete, per the announcement.
Doing the math, things don’t look terribly promising for a return in 2016. The team’s estimate would put Wood back in action in mid-to-late September, and that’s before considering a full rehab build-up and factoring in contingencies. A post-season return may be hypothetically possible, but that might be an aggressive assignment.
Wood had been building back after being diagnosed with an elbow impingement, with some optimism being expressed recently, but evidently some recent development led to the change in plans. It comes at an inopportune time for a Dodgers team that also lost another starter returning from injury — fellow southpaw Hyun-jin Ryu — to another malady. And that’s before considering the most important lefty of all, Clayton Kershaw, who doesn’t have a timetable to return from his back issues after a recent throwing session didn’t go well.
Wood, 25, had worked to a 3.99 ERA in 56 1/3 innings on the year, but showed promise for more with a rising strikeout rate (9.9 K/9). With a healthy 53.0% groundball rate mixed in, Wood checked in with rather excellent ratings from ERA estimators. He was carrying a 3.27 FIP, 3.31 xFIP, and 3.52 SIERA.
There’s been plenty of discussion about what Los Angeles might do at the trade deadline, though we’ve heard relatively little in terms of clear connections to specific targets. The organization already added righty Bud Norris to shore up the rotation, but the loss of Wood, the continued uncertainty surrounding Ryu, and an increasingly concerning situation with Kershaw may heighten the Dodgers’ desire to add a major starter.
At present, the Dodgers sit 4.5 games back of the Giants in the NL West and lead the Wild Card race. That’s not a bad spot to be in at all, but the club will need to be firing with all cylinders to keep pace in the division — or, if that fails, to hold off some strong pursuers to qualify for the play-in game.
For Wood, the continued absence comes at a particularly unfortunate time. He is set to qualify for arbitration for the first time after the 2016 campaign, but now is destined to have only a partial-season platform. Though his success and prior innings tallies will help boost his earnings, he’ll surely receive far less than he would have with a healthy year.