TODAY: Senga received a PRP injection in his right shoulder and won’t throw for at least three weeks, the Mets told Anthony DiComo and other reporters. This creates a rough timeline of late April/early May for Senga’s return if he returns from his shutdown period and is then able to ramp up as per usual, though things are still very fluid for a recovery plan. “We’ve got to be careful, but we’ll be flexible, as well,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. “Senga knows his body well. He knows he’s going to be pretty honest, and this is the conversation I’m having with him — making sure he voices his opinion, so we will have to adjust as we get going with his throwing program.”
FEBRUARY 22: The Mets were dealt some difficult injury news on Thursday morning. New York president of baseball operations David Stearns announced that staff ace Kodai Senga was diagnosed with a moderate posterior capsule strain in his throwing shoulder (relayed by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). Senga is being shut down until his symptoms subside. He’s out indefinitely and will open the year on the injured list.
Senga sat out the team’s workout yesterday after reporting arm fatigue. The Mets sent him for testing yesterday. That evidently revealed the shoulder strain. It subtracts the team’s best starter from the Opening Day rotation mix, although Stearns downplayed the urgency to go outside the organization for additional help (video link via the New York Post).
Senga, 31, signed a five-year, $75MM deal with the Mets last offseason after an 11-year run in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. The former Softbank Hawks ace outperformed even some of the more optimistic expectations for his MLB debut, pitching 166 1/3 innings of 2.98 ERA ball with a 29.1% strikeout rate and 11.1% walk rate. Senga made the NL All-Star team, finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and even landed seventh on the NL Cy Young ballot.
Following last summer’s trades of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Senga stood as the presumptive favorite to take the ball for the Mets on Opening Day. He’d have been followed, in some order, by Jose Quintana and offseason acquisitions Adrian Houser, Sean Manaea and Luis Severino. Instead, with Senga sidelined, one of those four (Quintana, most likely) will take the ball on Opening Day, while a battle for the fifth spot among in-house options like Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto plays out during spring training. Many Mets fans will surely hope that the Senga injuries spurs further activity on either the trade or free agent front, but that seems quite unlikely.
“I don’t thinks so,” Stearns replied when asked whether Senga’s injury increases the likelihood of adding someone from outside the organization. “We’re always going to be opportunistic and hear what’s out there, but I don’t think it really changes our thought process.”
The free agent market still features several notable names; each of Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Michael Lorenzen and Mike Clevinger remains unsigned. Presumably, the agents for all of those arms will be reaching out to the Mets in the wake of an ominous injury to their top starter.
However, the team’s mindset throughout the offseason has been to avoid long-term investments ahead of what looks like a largely transitional season. (Yoshinobu Yamamoto was the lone exception to that thinking, due to the 25-year-old’s atypical youth relative to other free agents.) That aversion to long-term deals will surely rule out a run at Snell or Montgomery, barring a change of heart from owner Steve Cohen, and the Mets’ luxury-tax status might make them reluctant to spend further on back-of-the-rotation arms like Lorenzen and Clevinger. Any spending for the Mets at this point comes with a 110% tax, so they’d effectively be paying double for any rotation additions.