If the COVID-19 outbreak is under control soon enough to have a 2020 MLB season, two of baseball’s top-10 starting pitchers (according to the ZiPS projections) won’t be part of it. Last Thursday, the Boston Red Sox announced that ace Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery, and reports on Tuesday say that the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard will do the same.
Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and will undergo TJS, keeping him out of baseball action until at least April 2021.
New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future, sources tell ESPN. The procedure will keep him out until at earliest April 2021 and likely into the summer months.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 24, 2020
As I wrote regarding Sale last Thursday: “Tommy John was likely to be needed at some point for Sale with this injury, and it makes sense to just it done as soon as possible when you consider that we may not even have baseball in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.”
Sometimes, pitchers deal with the discomfort and put off an inevitable surgery. In the situation we’re in now, just get the surgery done as soon as possible, and hopefully be ready to go early into the 2021 season.
But if we’re able to have baseball in 2020, Syndergaard is a massive loss for the Mets. The fireballing right-hander was projected to be eighth among MLB pitchers in WAR (wins above replacement) according to ZiPS, and was a 4+ WAR pitcher in both 2018 and 2019.
The FanGraphs’ playoff projections had the Mets winning 84 games — assuming a 162-game season that won’t happen, of course — before the surgery news, and with Syndergaard being projected for 4.9 WAR. So, erase that expected Syndergaard production, and FanGraphs would have the Mets as a sub-.500 team.
Now, it’s never that simple, and the Mets at least will be able to replace Syndergaard with whoever wasn’t going to make the rotation out of veterans Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha. Maybe Porcello and Wacha look more like the pitchers they were before their rough 2019 seasons, and help make up for at least a little bit of the Syndergaard loss. And the Mets still have an excellent top-two in the rotation, with annual Cy Young contender Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman. But the Mets’ depth is basically gone now; they can’t afford another injury to the starting rotation, and especially not to deGrom or Stroman.
Tommy John surgery is unfortunately nothing new to the Mets and their talented starting pitchers in recent years.
Jacob deGrom, TJ
Matt Harvey, TJ
Steven Matz, TJ
Zack Wheeler, TJ
Noah Syndergaard, TJ
Piching hurts, man.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) March 24, 2020
But, that’s the gamble you take with depending so much on arms.