March 14: Eppler today provided reporters with more information, including Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Quintana will undergo bone graft surgery on his rib and isn’t expected back until July at the earliest.
March 13, 3:15 pm: General manager Billy Eppler tells reporters, including Tim Britton of The Athletic, that the report of the three-month shutdown is “premature.” They are still talking to doctors about next steps.
1:30 pm: The Mets are planning to shut down starter José Quintana for the next three months, reports Mike Puma of The New York Post. The left-hander had recently been diagnosed with a stress fracture in one of his ribs and was sent for more imaging. It seems the injury is significant enough that he will miss roughly the first half of the season. However, Andy Martino of SNY has a slightly different viewpoint, reporting that the club is still considering different scenarios and will decide what to do in the next few days, with the three-month shutdown being one of the options being considered.
Quintana, 34, has long been a steady and reliable big league starter, primarily with the two Chicago clubs. From 2012 to 2019, he tossed 1,485 innings between the Cubs and White Sox with a 3.72 ERA. Outside of his rookie season in 2012, he made at least 31 starts and reached the 170-inning mark in each of those campaigns. That was followed by a couple of frustrating seasons, with a thumb injury holding him back in 2020 and the lefty struggling to get back on track in 2021. However, he finally got back into a good groove last year, tossing 165 2/3 innings between the Pirates and Cardinals with a 2.93 ERA, 20.2% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 46.4% ground ball rate.
The Mets were facing a great deal of rotation uncertainty this winter, with Jacob deGrom opting out of his contract while Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker each declined options. With all three of those hurlers reaching free agency and eventually signing elsewhere, the Mets spent aggressively to rebuild their rotation around incumbents Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco. They gave Justin Verlander an $86.67MM guarantee, $75MM to Kodai Senga and $26MM to Quintana, the latter on a two-year deal.
That gave the Mets a strong on-paper rotation but one with risk. Four of those five starters are over 34 years of age, while the 30-year-old Senga is going to be transitioning from a once-a-week throwing schedule in Japan to the five-day cycle of North American ball. We’re still not through spring and the Mets are already going to be turning to their depth options with Quintana set to miss significant time. Whether Quintana is ultimately shut down for three months or not, he’s likely facing an extended absence either way. Assuming Quintana is back to health in three months as planned, he will return to the mound in June. But he will then have to effectively redo his Spring Training, taking a few weeks to build back up to a starter’s workload, meaning the Mets will possibly have to look to other options until July or so.
Fortunately, the Mets have some solid depth options to turn to, such as David Peterson or Tylor Megill. The left-handed Peterson made 19 starts and nine relief appearances last year, posting a 3.83 ERA while striking out 27.8% of batters faced, walking 10.6% of them and getting grounders at a 49.4% clip. However, Puma reports that the club appears to be leaning towards Megill taking the rotation spot at this time. His 5.13 ERA from last year isn’t terribly impressive at first glance, but it’s possible that injuries played a role in that. As the Mets were dealing with injuries to start last year, they gave Megill a rotation spot and he posted a 1.93 ERA over five April starts. However, he allowed three earned runs in his next start and eight in the one after that, lasting just an inning and a third in the latter. He went on the injured list for biceps inflammation after that, came back for a couple more rough outings and went back on the IL for a shoulder strain.
Regardless of whoever ultimately gets the job, the Mets are now moving down their depth chart with this Quintana injury. It’s extremely rare for any team to get through a season without an injury like this, so the Mets surely anticipated having to call upon Peterson or Megill at some point. Still, it’s always unwelcome news when it actually comes into play. The club is set for what should be another tight divisional race this year, likely jockeying for position with Atlanta and Philadelphia for the top spot in the NL East, with the Mets already facing a significant hurdle in their path.