Reds righty Connor Overton’s exploratory elbow surgery ultimately resulted in him requiring Tommy John surgery, manager David Bell announced to reporters this morning (Twitter link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). It’s a worst-case scenario for the 29-year-old righty, who’d spent a month on the injured list with an elbow strain but experienced a setback that led to this morning’s operation. He’ll miss the rest of the 2023 season and a good portion of the 2024 campaign as well.
The 29-year-old Overton opened the season in the Reds’ rotation but was blasted for 14 runs on 19 hits and seven walks in just 11 innings of work through three starts. It was a far cry from the 2022 season, when Overton logged a 2.73 ERA in 33 innings of work across six appearances (four starts) for Cincinnati. An 11.3% strikeout rate and tiny .204 average on balls in play always made some regression likely, but the extent of his 2023 struggle was still alarming. The revelation of a major elbow injury quite possibly helps explain some of Overton’s immense struggles.
Selected in the 15th round of the 2014 draft by the Marlins, Overton has spent time with six MLB organizations — including big league work with the Reds, Pirates and Blue Jays — and also suited up for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. In 59 1/3 big league innings, he’s posted a 4.85 ERA with a 15.7% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate.
Overton might’ve gotten a lengthier look in the Reds’ rotation this season, as Cincinnati entered the year relying heavily on young arms with minimal MLB track records. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft all had some success in last year’s rookie campaigns, but each has struggled to varying extents in his sophomore effort. Veteran Luis Cessa opened the season in the rotation, but he’s already been designated for assignment and released. Offseason signee Luke Weaver has made six starts and currently sports a 6.54 ERA. Cincinnati has recently turned to journeyman right-hander Ben Lively for a pair of starts and is also taking its first look at prospect Brandon Williamson. Suffice it to say, there would’ve been ample opportunity for a healthy Overton, whether he struggled or not.
Instead, he’ll spend the remainder of the season on the injured list. It’s a small consolation when considering that the surgery cost him an opportunity to establish himself as a credible big league pitcher, but he’ll accrue Major League service time and pay for the remainder of the season. That’ll take him past two years of service. Overton won’t be arbitration-eligible next winter, but his spot on the 40-man roster will still be in jeopardy, as the Reds would have to carry him on the roster all winter before they could recoup that spot by placing him on the 60-day IL in spring training 2024. If he’s outrighted off the roster at season’s end, it’s certainly possible they’d have interest in re-signing him on a minor league pact.