Max Scherzer is set to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, Mets manager Buck Showalter told Newsday’s Tim Healey and other reporters. Right hamstring tightness kept Scherzer out of a scheduled seven-inning intrasquad game on Saturday, which was supposed to be Scherzer’s last bit of spring work before the beginning of the regular season.
The ace has already tossed 11 Grapefruit League innings, so his arm might already be built up enough should he get through Tuesday’s bullpen without any ill effects. It is also possible that the Mets might opt for some extra caution, and either push Scherzer’s first start back at least a few days, or maybe even sideline him with a backdated IL visit just to be completely sure that the 37-year-old is fully ready.
Scherzer’s health has taken on an greater import for the Mets in the wake of Friday’s news that Jacob deGrom will miss probably at least the first two months of the season after an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his right scapula. The Mets begin play on April 7 with seven straight games (a four-game series against the Nationals and then a three-game series against the Phillies), so there aren’t any off-days to provide breathing room for the pitching staff.
DeGrom and Scherzer had been penciled in for the first two games of the schedule, with Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker then slated to follow in the rotation. Rather than disrupt this planned routine, if Scherzer can’t pitch on April 7, any of Tyler Megill, David Peterson, or Trevor Williams could start the first two games, or New York could even opt for a bullpen game. Of course, the Mets are also known to be on the lookout for more starting pitching help, so a new face might suddenly emerge to help fill out the rotation picture.
DeGrom met with reporters (including The New York Post’s Mike Puma) today to discuss his injury, and unsurprisingly, his “level of frustration is really high right now” over another lengthy stint on the injured list. A forearm injury ended deGrom’s 2021 season on July 7, cutting short an incredible year that saw deGrom post an 1.08 ERA over 92 innings.
If there is any silver lining, deGrom is confident that his stress reaction won’t be a lingering problem: “Structurally everything looks fine, so once the bone heals then we’ll be ready to go and build up from there and hopefully be healthy for the rest of the year.” As such, deGrom reiterated that he is still planning to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after the season, and test the open market.
Most pitchers with this recent injury history would be more hesitant over walking away from a guaranteed $30.5MM in 2023, plus maybe another $32.5MM in 2024 via a Mets club option. However, if deGrom is healthy and pitches like his usual self when he returns to the mound, he’ll surely land a more lucrative multi-year commitment. As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal pointed out, $12MM of deGrom’s 2023 salary would also be deferred, so opting out would allow deGrom to land more up-front money in a new contract.
In other Mets contract news (or lack thereof), Puma reports that there hasn’t been any discussion between the club and Brandon Nimmo’s representatives about a contract extension. Nimmo has stated multiple times that he would be interested in working out a long-term deal as he enters his final season before free agency. In general, most players prefer to not let talks carry on beyond Opening Day, so there might not be a lot of time left for a deal to get done if Nimmo adheres to this rough deadline.
Nimmo has been one of baseball’s more quietly productive players in recent years, hitting .266/.393/.445 with 47 home runs over 1695 career PA. This translates to a very impressive 131 OPS+ and 134 wRC+, but the key statistic might be the relatively small amount of plate appearances, as Nimmo has been beset by multiple injuries. It could be that the Mets have held off on extension talks in order to see if Nimmo can finally put together a lengthy stretch of playing time in 2022, though if he does stay healthy, Nimmo might then be tempted to test the free agent market.