ATLANTA — The last time the Mets were in Atlanta, they had their three best pitchers lined up to try and hold off the surging Braves for a chance to win the NL East. One by one, they all fell to the team that eventually won the division. It was Jacob deGrom’s final regular season appearance for the Mets, and though he kept the team’s title hopes alive with a Wild Card win over the San Diego Padres, ultimately, that was the end for the dominant, homegrown right-hander in New York.
Now, the Mets are back in Atlanta, and they arrived just in time to find out that deGrom, now a member of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, will have to undergo his second Tommy John surgery.
“You feel awful for him,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday at Truist Park. “I know how much it means for him to pitch and he enjoys pitching. It’s certainly sad news for all of us.”
His former Mets teammates reached out right away.
“I sent him a text and said that I hope the surgery goes well and that the recovery goes well,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “Hopefully he can get back to being the guy and the pitcher that we know he’s capable of, which is one of the best in the world.”
DeGrom had been on the injured list since April 29 with elbow inflammation. He had made six starts this season after a slow start in spring training that led many fans to question how much he would pitch for Texas. He signed a five-year, $185 million contract shortly before the winter meetings in December, with a mutual option for a sixth season.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had struggled with myriad elbow and back injuries over the last few seasons, throwing only 156 and 1/3 innings over 2021 and 2022. He went nearly a year in between starts after ending the 2021 season with forearm tightness and starting 2022 with a scapula injury.
“He was fighting through things,” Nimmo said. “We all kind of are, but he was able to get through some of it. Ultimately, there is just so much stress that you can put on an arm and he’s had a long run with this Tommy John that he’s had before.”
DeGrom had his first ulnar collateral ligament repair surgery shortly after he was drafted by the Mets in 2010. In a familiar twist, it was diagnosed after six starts, this time with the rookie league Kingsport Mets. He was sidelined for all of 2011. The procedure didn’t appear to affect his development, as he still went on to become the NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 and was an All-Star in 2015.
But his 2016 season was cut short because of ulnar nerve problems, which led to another elbow surgery to reposition the nerve. He came into the 2017 season determined to become an ace, which meant making 30 starts and pitching 200 innings. He took pride in reaching those milestones in 2018 and 2019, the same years he won his Cy Young Awards.
“He’s just kind of better than everyone else,” Nimmo said. “He locates his stuff where he wants to and it’s elite stuff. It’s three elite pitches that he locates in an elite way. For me, I never had to do much behind him. It was a joy to watch.”
The Rangers didn’t insure deGrom’s contract because of the cost. At 34 with a long injury history, it would’ve been exceptionally expensive to insure him. The money is guaranteed.
The timeline for deGrom’s injury is 12 months, which means he will miss the Rangers’ trip to Citi Field in August. With the new schedule, each team plays one another at least once throughout the season, so there’s an outside chance that deGrom could face the Mets next season if everything aligns.
But even the 2024 season isn’t guaranteed for a pitcher whose Hall of Fame candidacy is now in doubt.
“This stinks. It’s not ideal,” deGrom told Rangers reporters. “But at least we know what it is now. I want to get it fixed and will set a goal to be back before the end of next year.”
Source: Berkshire mont