On the same day that one prominent member of their rotation returned to action, the Mets set another aside until 2022.
Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom will not pitch again this season, the team announced on Tuesday afternoon. Thus ends a months-long saga in which deGrom attempted to ramp up multiple times only to have persistent right elbow inflammation hold him back.
This time, deGrom’s joint health was not the direct reason for his shutdown. Instead, with less than a week remaining in the season and deGrom not quite ready, the Mets decided it would be more prudent to cut short his rehab than to try to rush it in the hopes that he could return for an inning or two this weekend.
“Everyone is fully on board,” manager Luis Rojas said of the decision. “Jake is fully on board. It’s the right thing.”
The Mets did not immediately make deGrom available for comment, but he is expected to discuss his situation before the end of the season.
“He would be fine to pitch, but there’s no sense to it.”
Luis Rojas explains why the Mets are shutting down Jacob deGrom: pic.twitter.com/qXW3qBLBBB
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 28, 2021
It has been a disjointed one for deGrom, who missed time earlier this year due to right lat, side, back, shoulder and forearm issues, before finally succumbing to elbow inflammation in mid-July. Team president Sandy Alderson later revealed that deGrom had a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow, which healed itself over time. A clean MRI in late August prompted deGrom to restart a throwing program, which he was not able to complete in enough time to return.
As recently as Monday, deGrom threw a successful bullpen session, but he had yet to face hitters or pitch in Minor League games — two steps that most pitchers make before returning to MLB action.
“He checked all the boxes for it, but we talked today — and with him too, and everyone — and at this point, there’s no point for him to pitch in a game,” Rojas said. “He’s just going to shut it down for the season and focus on his offseason routine. … He was fine to pitch after the side [session] yesterday, but at this point, it just doesn’t make any sense to have him go out there and compete.”
The strategy contrasts with how the Mets are handling Noah Syndergaard, who returned to the mound on Tuesday for the first of what is likely to be two brief outings heading into the offseason. However, a pair of major differences exist. The first is that Syndergaard had a far longer runway to ramp up, with time for multiple live bullpen sessions and three Minor League rehab appearances. The second is that Syndergaard can be a free agent after this season, with plenty of personal motivation to return to the mound.
deGrom had little reason to pitch for a Mets team already eliminated from postseason contention. Had that not been the case, the right-hander likely would have returned.
“If we were in it, I would say Jake would be pitching for us,” Rojas said.
The Mets will now enter the offseason without a clear picture of deGrom’s health, despite an organizational belief that he should be fine long-term. A proponent of year-round throwing, deGrom will likely continue playing catch throughout the offseason, but he won’t step atop a mound again until 2022. As such, the Mets won’t know until Spring Training if he can avoid a relapse of the discomfort he has felt in his elbow.
All they know now is how important deGrom remains to their future success. When healthy enough to throw this season, deGrom went 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 92 innings, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to throw even 60 innings with an ERA that low. deGrom is under contract for three more seasons, though he has an opt-out after 2022 that could either make him a free agent or force the Mets to renegotiate — a prospect that seemed likely heading into this season, but less so now.
These are all questions that won’t have easy answers until next summer.
“He was ready to pitch,” Rojas said. “But at this point, it’s a ‘no.’”