Why Thor picked Dodgers: 'Everything they touch turns to gold'

Syndergaard signs 1-year, $13M deal after bounce-back season with Angels/Phillies

December 20th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- was a popular arm on the free-agent market. The 30-year-old right-hander had “quite a few teams” interested. Some offered a multiyear deal, others had an even higher average annual value than the Dodgers’ $13 million offer. 

But as Syndergaard went through free agency, the Dodgers’ track record in helping pitchers reach their full potential kept sticking out. He decided to bet on himself, accepting a one-year deal to join the NL West champions. 

“I feel like everything that they touch turns to gold,” Syndergaard said. “This is a pretty surreal moment. It’s been my dream ever since I was first introduced to Dodger Stadium. … I just feel really fortunate and blessed to play for such a great organization.”

Finding starting-pitching depth was the top priority for Los Angeles this offseason. Though the Dodgers came to terms quickly with on a one-year deal, they also saw left-hander Tyler Anderson leave for the Angels -- which made adding starters that much more of a necessity. 

Los Angeles whiffed on its top target this offseason when Justin Verlander narrowed his options to the Dodgers and Mets before signing with New York on a two-year deal. Once that happened, the attention turned to Syndergaard. 

After a promising start to his career with the Mets, Syndergaard, who is famously nicknamed “Thor,” battled injuries from 2017-21, but he had a bounce-back season with the Angels and Phillies in ’22. He went 10-10 with a 3.94 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) last season and helped stabilize a Phils rotation that reached the World Series. 

“This last year, the results were pretty good, but there are a lot of starts where I was just kind of fighting myself and not having a lot of confidence in my delivery, and it was just kind of hard to fix that during the season,” he said.

Syndergaard broke into the Majors as a hard thrower, but the Texas native changed his repertoire last season, his first back from Tommy John surgery. He relied mostly on a sinker-slider combination and averaged 93-94 mph on the heater, as opposed to 97-98 mph before the injuries. 

Even with the success he had at times last season, Syndergaard said he plans to be a “completely different pitcher” in 2023. He has spent time working out at Tread Athletics and Driveline in attempt to recapture the velocity that once made him one of the most feared pitchers in the Majors. 

Syndergaard said “there’s no excuse” for why he can’t get back to being the pitcher he once was. He’s still figuring out his post-surgery mechanics and delivery. The Dodgers are eager to get their hands on him after the holidays. 

“Whatever I was doing last year was not the best version of me,” Syndergaard said. “Just have to have the confidence to go out there and be free and easy. … I have the utmost confidence in the coaching staff and the Dodgers organization to get me back to feeling that way.”

It remains to be seen if Syndergaard can tap into that form, but it’s certain that the Dodgers will rely on him to fill a huge hole in the back half of the rotation. With Syndergaard in the mix, Los Angeles likely will enter Spring Training with him as its No. 5 starter behind , , and Kershaw. 

The Dodgers also have , and as starting options. Top pitching prospects Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone will also be at their disposal once they get some more innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles is still considering the idea of going to a six-man rotation, something that could allow May and Gonsolin to stay healthy. Seth Lugo was in the mix, but the right-hander is reportedly signing a two-year deal with the rival Padres.

There are still some question marks, but on Monday the Dodgers introduced Syndergaard, whom they hope can be a huge piece of the puzzle.