Nationals right-hander Mason Thompson will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday, with Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com among those to relay the news. As noted by Zuckerman, this will be the second time the righty will be undergoing the procedure, with the first occurring when he was a high schooler.
A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Thompson would be shut down due to an elbow injury. At that time, manager Dave Martinez confessed that the team was “a little concerned,” so they likely had some inkling that today’s news was possible.
It’s undoubtedly a frustrating setback for both Thompson and the team. The now-26-year-old came over to the Nationals from the Padres in the 2021 Daniel Hudson trade and now has 106 games of MLB experience under his belt between those two clubs. He has logged 103 1/3 innings, allowing 4.53 earned runs per nine. His 17.7% strikeout rate and 10% walk rate are both subpar, but his 51.1% ground ball rate is quite strong.
The Nats are rebuilding and will likely have plenty of innings available for young pitchers this year, allowing them to continue to develop while showcasing their abilities to the league. Unfortunately, Thompson won’t be able to take advantage of that opportunity. Since Tommy John rehab generally takes over a year, he’ll miss the entire 2024 season and perhaps the early portions of 2025 as well.
The club will have to pivot to other options with Thompson no longer in the mix for this year’s bullpen innings. They have given minor league deals to various veterans such as Derek Law, Matt Barnes, Richard Bleier, Luis Perdomo and Jacob Barnes.
The Nats will likely transfer Thompson to the 60-day injured list once they need his roster spot. If that comes to pass, he’ll spend the whole year there, receiving major league pay and service time. He would cross three years of service in that scenario and qualify for arbitration next winter, though missing the entire year will make him unlikely to receive a substantial raise. The Nats could also designate him for assignment, but injured players can’t be put on outright waivers, meaning he’d have to be put on release waivers. They could then try to re-sign him to a minor league deal but Thompson would be free to explore opportunities with other clubs.