Dustin McGowan Might Be A Dodger, Maybe

Next up in the “hey, I’ve heard of that guy” brigade, Dustin McGowan, apparently:

If you know nothing at all about McGowan — and you probably don’t — know this: Holy crap, does that guy get hurt a lot. A list of his major injuries, which I don’t even guarantee is complete:

  • 2004 — Tommy John surgery
  • 2008 — Right shoulder surgery (labrum/rotator cuff)
    • this cost him both the 2009 and 2010 seasons
  • 2009 — Right knee surgery (meniscus)
  • 2010 — Right shoulder surgery (rotator cuff)
  • 2012 — Right shoulder surgery
  • 2013 — Oblique strain

That’s four arm surgeries and three on the shoulder alone. Despite making his debut a decade ago, the 2000 first round pick has just 482.1 career innings. By comparison, Clayton Kershaw threw 486.1 innings (including playoffs) in 2012-13 alone. By all accounts, McGowan’s career should have been long over, but he’s persisted, and now, at 33 in March, he apparently might be a Dodger.

If your first question is “why,” well, that’s not a bad start. I have to assume this is going to be a minor league deal, though I can’t say that with certainty given rumors that several other teams were showing interest. After years of attempting to be a starter with Toronto — only once was he healthy enough to make even 20 starts, way back in 2007 — McGowan moved to the bullpen in 2013 with signs of success. He started 2014 back in the Toronto rotation but was demoted to the bullpen after 8 starts, in part because he indicated he was having trouble recovering between starts, in part because he said he was fatigued after only 60 pitches, and in part because Marcus Stroman was ready, and Marcus Stroman is awesome.

Shockingly, despite all the years of arm injuries, he still throws really, really hard:

mcgowan_pitch_velo
To the surprise of absolutely no one, he was better as a reliever in 2014, but thanks to a big home run problem, that’s not the same thing as being good:

SP / RP IP HR/9 K% BB% K-BB% AVG WHIP BABIP FIP xFIP
As Starter 39 1.15 14.0% 9.6% 4.5% .291 1.62 .320 5.06 5.42
As Reliever 43 1.67 20.5% 9.1% 11.4% .213 1.16 .224 4.99 4.13

Though it should be noted, I think, that it’s not like he was giving up homers this year to anyone who resembled Erisbel Arruebarrena:

With one or two exceptions, those are some names. It doesn’t make it okay — it’s not like the Dodgers won’t face good hitters this year — but you wonder what he might look like if Don Mattingly can pick his spots. We’ve talked a lot about failed hard-throwing righty starters becoming good relievers — everyone wants the next Wade Davis, and there’s some hope that Juan Nicasio can follow some kind of similar path — and maybe that’s how McGowan fits in. He throws hard, and now he’s leaving Toronto’s offense-friendly park. That can only help him.

Of course, we still need to see what the contract is. If it’s a no-risk minor league deal, then great, grand, absolutely. If it’s a major league deal, well, I won’t care about the money — it simply can’t be much — but I will care about how he gets on the roster. It doesn’t seem likely that Kenley Jansen is going to be out long enough to justify putting him on the 60-day DL. It’d be fantastic if Brandon Beachy could head right there, though I must admit I’m unsure if that’s allowed right after signing him. (Seems like it should be, right? And if so, turning Chris Withrow‘s roster spot into Beachy and McGowan would just be pure genius.) It it means someone else loses their job, I’m a lot less certain about that.

We’ll have to see. It’s fascinating that McGowan is even still pitching. It’d be interesting to see him outside of Toronto. It just hasn’t been a ton of actual, on-field production to this point.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.