The New York Mets were dealt a devastating blow yesterday, when the club learned that Matt Harvey has a partially torn UCL in his throwing arm. A tear of the UCL usually requires Tommy John surgery in order to replace the ligament, and it usually takes a full year to recover from the surgery. As of right now, Harvey plans to rehab from the partial tear without undergoing Tommy John surgery, but it is very likely that Harvey will need surgery to repair the ligament. The injury really has little effect on the Mets for this season, as the club sits 19 games behind the Braves for the division lead. However, if Harvey does require Tommy John surgery, this injury will greatly impact the Mets’ future, especially their timeline for contending.
The Mets haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, but the rebuilding process seemed nearly over, with the farm system looking stronger at the upper levels. Mets’ General Manager, Sandy Alderson, has said that 2014 is the team’s target year for being consistent contenders. Alderson has also suggested that the club’s payroll would be “substantially higher” in 2014. However, with the likelihood that Harvey will miss all of the 2014 season, and the fact that the team still has many holes to fill, it seems unlikely that the Mets will contend for a playoff spot. The biggest issue for the Mets is that they lack long-term answers at many offensive positions i.e, David Wright has been the only constant in the Mets’ lineup. So far this season, the Mets rank 21st in runs, in large part due to their 27th ranked wOBP. The entire Met’s lineup lacks solid pieces to build around, with Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud as the only young position players that have impressed so far this season. Even these players come with plenty of questions. The Mets have seen just as many young players take large steps in the wrong direction, with Ruben Tejeda, Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda all having regressed following promising seasons. If the Mets can get just two of these players to rebound, it would go a long way to filling some holes in their roster, without needing to go outside the organization.
The reason the Mets seemed primed for a breakthrough in 2014 has to do with their pitching depth as well as talent. The Mets’ rotation has really gone under the radar, as they currently rank 8th in K/9 and BB/9. The Mets also rank 5th in FIP, which is a great statistic for predicting a pitcher or club’s future performance. The Mets currently have four top pitchers under the age of 25, including Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Jenrry Mejia. The Mets also have controllable starters in Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. However, with the loss of Harvey and Syndergaard still likely another year away from the Majors, it seems like 2014 is definitely going to be another lost season for the Mets, even if they make a few offensive additions.
After the Tommy John surgery, Harvey would likely be able to return by 2015, but many pitchers perform much more effectively in their second full season back from Tommy John surgery than they do in their first. This table should illustrate how some of the league’s top pitchers have gotten progressively better in their second year back from Tommy John, compared with their first year back.
|Adam Wainwright- Year 1||3.94||3.10||198 2/3||8.3||2.4|
|Adam Wainwright- Year 2||2.58||2.32||198 2/3||8.2||1.1|
|Chris Carpenter- Year 1||3.46||3.85||182||7.5||1.9|
|Chris Carpenter- Year 2||2.83||2.90||241 2/3||7.9||1.9|
|Jordan Zimmermann- Year 1||3.18||3.16||161 1/3||6.9||1.7|
|Jordan Zimmermann- Year 2||2.94||3.51||195 2/3||7.0||2.0|
|Josh Johnson- Year 1||3.23||3.06||209||8.2||2.5|
|Josh Johnson- Year 2||2.30||2.41||183 2/3||9.1||2.4|
Knowing that Harvey is not likely to come back at full strength in 2015, and the fact that the Mets’ rotation will still be young and controllable, it seems best for the New York Mets to go all in for 2016. If the Mets shoot for 2016 as the legitimate target year for contending and do not go all in too soon, then they will be able to gradually grow their payroll. While steadily growing their payroll, the Mets will be able to spend their money on the right players, and avoid the terrible contracts that got them into this position in the first place. While Harvey’s injury may not hurt the Mets this season, it will likely delay the Mets’ chances to contend.