Mets manager Luis Rojas told The Athletic’s Tim Britton (Twitter links) and other reporters that ace Jacob deGrom has been shut down for the remainder of the 2021 season. “There’s no sense to” letting deGrom pitch in what would essentially be a meaningless game, Rojas said, adding that deGrom would likely have been deployed if the Mets had still been in the running for a playoff spot. The skipper also said that there was no physical reason deGrom was unable, as the right-hander came out of a Monday side session looking “fine to pitch.”
The news officially ends deGrom’s season at 92 innings, with an 1.08 ERA and a set of extraordinary peripherals backing up the right-hander’s work. What was looking like a third Cy Young Award-winning campaign was hampered by several minor injuries, however, before deGrom was placed on the 10-day IL (and then the 60-day IL) with forearm tightness.
His rehab work contained at least one setback, and further concerns arose when Mets president Sandy Alderson said that deGrom had recovered from the “lowest-grade partial tear” in his right UCL. DeGrom went on record denying this statement, saying “my ligament is perfectly fine.” Rojas and acting GM Zack Scott had also previously said deGrom’s elbow issues weren’t related to any structural problems, which only added to the confusion over deGrom’s status. Today, Rojas stated that deGrom was expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Of all the problems that befell the Mets in 2021, losing perhaps the sport’s best pitcher for such an elongated period of time might have been the biggest setback. While the team continued to insist that deGrom would indeed be back at some point, New York’s nosedive in the standings made it something of a moot point. The Mets are 17-34 over their last 51 games, and are mired in a stretch of 10 losses in their past 11 games.
It isn’t any surprise that the Mets are now prioritizing deGrom’s 2022 readiness over a token relief outing or two, and next season is shaping up as particularly important one for both the team and the ace righty. DeGrom can opt out of his contract following the 2022 campaign, leaving his $30.5MM salary for 2023 (and the Mets’ $32.5MM club option for 2024) on the table in search of a more lucrative free agent deal. As great as deGrom’s track record has been, he’ll need to display good health in what will be his age-34 season in order to land such a contract if he does choose to opt out.