The results of Max Scherzer’s MRI are in, and the news isn’t great for the Mets. The team announced Thursday that Scherzer has suffered a “moderate to high grade internal oblique strain” and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. He’ll be placed on the injured list alongside co-ace Jacob deGrom (stress reaction in his scapula) and right-hander Tylor Megill (biceps inflammation).
It’s a brutal blow for the Mets, who sit at 25-14 and currently hold a six-game lead over the second-place Phillies in the National League East. Scherzer sustained the injury last night when throwing a slider to Albert Pujols, telling reporters after the game that he’d been experienced some tightness before feeling a “zing” down his side on the final pitch to Pujols. The three-time Cy Young winner immediately called for the training staff and could be seen plainly stating, “I’m done” when the staff reached the mound.
The Mets shattered precedent to get Scherzer into Queens, signing the 37-year-old righty to a three-year deal worth $130MM and giving him the highest annual salary in baseball history in doing so ($43.33MM). Owner Steve Cohen and first-year general manager Billy Eppler surely had visions of the game’s most formidable one-two punch at the time, dreaming of a playoff rotation fronted by Scherzer and deGrom.
It’s possible that duo could yet lead the Mets’ staff in the postseason, but deGrom hasn’t pitched yet in 2022 thanks to that shoulder injury. The team announced earlier this week that his latest MRI revealed “continued healing” but did not provide a timetable for his return. It’s now possible that the Mets won’t have that vaunted duo healthy and on the same roster until after the All-Star break, depending on Scherzer’s recovery.
Even in the absence of Scherzer, deGrom and Megill — whose injury should be downplayed, given the strength of his early performance — the Mets still have a solid starting staff on paper. Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco have been outstanding early in the season, and the Mets have gotten quality work from Taijuan Walker and (in more limited opportunities) lefty David Peterson, too. It’s likely that Williams and Peterson will be the choices to follow the trio of Bassitt, Carrasco and Walker while the Mets navigate this latest batch of injuries.
While that’s a solid group, it obviously pales in comparison to a full-strength contingent of Mets starters. And, more concerning, the depth beyond the current quintet begins to look more questionable. Veteran left-hander Mike Montgomery is pitching with the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate but has been tagged for a 5.52 ERA through seven starts. Twenty-five-year-old Thomas Szapucki has been sharp through six Triple-A starts but has totaled just 21 innings in those outings. Righty Jordan Yamamoto has been a depth option for the Mets in the past, but he was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this season and only just made his minor league debut — 1 2/3 shaky innings in High-A — after missing time on the minor league injured list. Former Angels righty Felix Pena was brought in on a minor league deal, but like Montgomery, he’s struggled in Triple-A.
Given the manner in which injuries have already cut into the team’s depth, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Mets poke around the market for some depth options. Major trades this time of year are uncommon but not unheard of. Otherwise, the Mets could turn to some recently DFA’ed arms (e.g. Jharel Cotton) or veterans who’ve recently opted for minor league free agency (e.g. Drew Hutchison, Carlos Martinez) in an effort to at least stockpile some experienced options in the upper minors.