Mets third baseman David Wright has been diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck, he told reporters including Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link). His outlook remains uncertain, though he suggested that he’ll know more tomorrow.
Wright has been battling through spinal stenosis in his back all year. That condition limited him to 38 games a season ago, but he’s just one shy of that number already in 2016. He’s no longer one of the game’s very best hitters, but he’s still managed to compile a .226/.350/.438 batting line with seven home runs and three stolen bases over his 164 plate appearances thus far.
The neck issue appears to be a new one, and it’s certainly concerning to see another variable introduced for the 33-year-old. His back condition is expected to require intensive care, conditioning, and periodic rest for the rest of his career. It certainly seems fair to wonder whether it also leaves him somewhat more susceptible to other ailments.
For now, it’s not clear whether a DL stint is in order. New York is already dealing with the loss of Lucas Duda for an unknown stretch with his own back problems, with James Loney expected to fill in. The hope might have been that Wilmer Flores could also see time at first, in addition to providing support in the middle infield, but he may now be leaned on to fill in (or at least spell) Wright at the hot corner.
The Mets do have some infield options within the organization who could help shoulder the load. Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini are both hitting well at Triple-A, and could perform utility roles, though only Herrera is on the 40-man roster. Matt Reynolds is another 40-man infield possibility; he was just sent down to make way for Flores, but could be recalled without waiting the usual ten days if the move is required due to an ensuing DL placement.
All told, it’s far too soon to know whether Wright’s neck injury is a significant new cause for concern. It’s impossible to know his individual prognosis, given that he and the team have yet to learn of it, but one data point that’s worth noting is that of Nick Markakis. The outfielder underwent offseason surgery after signing with the Braves to address his own, seemingly similar condition, and was able to recover within six weeks or so in order to begin a full spring with his new organization.
Wright remains a critical piece of the puzzle for the Mets, who not only need him to contend this year but are also obligated to him for $67MM over four seasons in the future. Given his preexisting issues, this new malady rates as a topic to watch for the time being.