11:53AM: While an official recovery timeline won’t be known until after the surgery, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter) estimates that Soroka will be out for a full year, until July 2022.
11:11AM: Braves right-hander Mike Soroka will undergo surgery to fix a torn Achilles tendon, the team announced (Twitter links). This will be the second season-ending Achilles procedure in as many years for Soroka, as according to the Braves’ announcement, he suffered “a complete re-tear of the tendon” while walking to the team’s clubhouse on Thursday.
It is another brutal turn of events for Soroka, who already underwent exploratory surgery on his Achilles back in May. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker initially thought Soroka would be done for the season after that surgery, though more recent reports had the team hopeful that the righty could return to action some time in August.
The 23-year-old Soroka was a breakout star of the 2019 season, posting a 2.68 ERA, 20.3% strikeout rate, and 51.2% grounder rate over 174 2/3 innings en route to finishing second in NL Rookie Of The Year voting and sixth in NL Cy Young Award voting. Just when it seemed as though Soroka had established himself as one of baseball’s top young arms, however, he tore his Achilles while covering first base on a fielding play during a game on August 3, 2020, ending his season after just three starts.
Between some shoulder inflammation and the May surgery, Soroka hasn’t pitched since that fateful August 3 game, and in the wake of these repeated major Achilles injuries, it is fair to wonder just when he might able to get back to action. A return by Opening Day 2022 doesn’t seem likely, as an increased amount of rehab and recovery will undoubtedly be required after this second surgery.
Soroka is under team control through the 2024 season, as he still has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining due to earning Super Two status. Despite tossing only 13 2/3 innings in 2020, Soroka still won an arbitration case with the Braves this past offseason, earning him a $2.8MM salary for 2021 in his first time through the arb process. He’ll be projected to earn that same salary for 2022, so there isn’t much of a chance Atlanta would non-tender Soroka given the low price tag and his big upside if he is able to stay healthy.
In the shorter term, the Braves now know they won’t be getting Soroka back as a late-season rotation boost. Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, and Drew Smyly comprise Atlanta’s current top three, with Max Fried expected to return this week from a blister. Huascar Ynoa (broken hand) and Tucker Davidson (forearm inflammation) are both on the 60-day IL and won’t be back until August, while the likes of Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, and Kyle Muller haven’t distinguished themselves in starting roles. It’s safe to assume Atlanta was looking for starting pitching help even prior to today’s news about Soroka, though with a 36-39 record, the Braves will have to start stringing together some wins over the next month to ensure that they’ll be buyers whatsoever at the trade deadline.