The Dodgers announced that Tony Gonsolin will undergo Tommy John surgery. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Friday.
Gonsolin was already known to be out for the remainder of the 2023 season. The club had announced his injury as forearm inflammation when first placing him on the IL last week. They transferred him to the 60-day IL yesterday to close the book on this year.
Now, it seems unlikely he’ll be a factor again until 2025. A Tommy John procedure typically comes with a recovery time pushing or exceeding 14 months. Perhaps he’d be able to make a return late next season, but the safer bet is that he’ll spend the entire ’24 campaign on the 60-day injured list.
Arm injuries have been an unfortunately recurring theme for Gonsolin during his five-year big league career. He lost a couple months early in 2021 with shoulder inflammation. He posted a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts that year and was healthy for the first part of 2022. Gonsolin turned in an All-Star first half and worked to a sparkling 2.14 ERA through 130 1/3 innings. A forearm strain sent him to the IL in late August.
Gonsolin returned at the end of September and made a start in L.A.’s playoff series loss to the Padres. His 2023 debut was delayed by an unrelated ankle sprain, though he returned in late April. The 29-year-old worked 103 innings across 20 outings, struggling to his first below-average season. He allowed just under five earned runs per nine while striking hitters out at a career-low 18.9% clip while his average fastball speed dipped from 93.1 MPH to 92.4 MPH. Things spiraled from late June onward, as Gonsolin allowed four-plus runs in eight of his 11 outings before being placed on the IL.
The Dodgers have now lost a pair of their expected top five starters to forearm surgeries. Dustin May underwent a flexor tendon procedure in early July. The Dodgers indicated May could be back midway through the ’24 season.
Los Angeles was certain to address their rotation next offseason even if May and Gonsolin had been healthy. Clayton Kershaw is an impending free agent, and while the Dodgers would surely have interest in re-signing him, the three-time Cy Young winner will first need to decide whether he wants to suit up for a 17th season. Julio Urías will be one of the top starters in next winter’s free agent class, while the Dodgers will have to make a net $17MM decision on an option for Lance Lynn.
The Dodgers could welcome Walker Buehler back in short stints next month and transition him back to the rotation for ’24. Rookie Bobby Miller has pitched well enough to stake a claim to a spot. That leaves as many as three jobs still to be sorted out between free agency, trade and some combination of Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan, Gavin Stone, Michael Grove and perhaps a prospect like Nick Frasso or Landon Knack. The pitching pipeline is strong enough they won’t be short on options, but they’ll obviously need to fortify the starting staff with additional certainty.
Gonsolin signed a two-year deal to cover his first couple arbitration seasons in January. He’s guaranteed a $3.4MM base salary for next year. That deal contained up to $3MM in start-based incentives which he won’t be able to trigger even if he makes a late-season return. Even beyond the lengthy rehab process, the absence will be fairly costly for the right-hander. He’ll remain eligible for arbitration through the 2026 campaign.