NEW YORK -- In terms of dollars spent, the 2022 Mets entered this season boasting by far the most extravagant roster in franchise history. Their Opening Day payroll edged toward $300 million, opening a gulf between them and most of the rest of the league. That was in large part due to Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, who are making $78.8 million combined -- more than four entire Major League teams.
While the Mets are by no means a top-heavy roster, their pitching staff is nonetheless dependent upon those two aces. So it is troubling news that, six weeks into the season, the Mets must proceed for the foreseeable future without either of them.
An MRI taken Thursday revealed that Scherzer has a “moderate to high-grade internal oblique strain,” according to the team, which estimated his recovery at 6-8 weeks. Even if Scherzer hits the aggressive end of that timeline, he will not return to the rotation until early July. deGrom is also sidelined for an indefinite period due to a stress reaction in his right scapula, which has already cost him the entire season to date; he’s unlikely to return until at least July, as well.
All told, the Mets are missing three of their top six starters: deGrom and Scherzer, as well as Tylor Megill, who is suffering from right biceps tendinitis.
“It definitely sucks, but it’s more so just next man up,” said No. 3 starter Chris Bassitt, who is now the Mets’ de facto ace. “We have the depth to withstand this. This is why I think the front office … brought me in, and brought Max in to really shore up the starters. When things happen -- because things happen to everybody -- we’re able to still win games. We didn’t lose him for the year, so it is what it is.”
Scherzer’s injury occurred Wednesday night at Citi Field, where he pulled himself out of a start due to tightness in his side. He called the injury a “zing” in his midsection, serious enough to warrant an MRI the following morning. According to manager Buck Showalter, Scherzer has also been dealing with blister issues for most of the month, though the oblique diagnosis is by far the more sinister one.
Scherzer called them “nasty” injuries that can linger for weeks, which the Mets acknowledged with their injury update. He will shut down until his oblique heals enough for him to restart a throwing program. Before his injury, Scherzer was 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA.
In his absence, the Mets will rely on their three healthy rotation members -- Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker -- as well as multiple fill-ins. David Peterson rejoined the Mets in New York on Thursday and is a possibility to start for them on Saturday, along with Trevor Williams. The Mets could also turn eventually to Thomas Szapucki, a former top prospect who has struck out 29 batters in 21 innings at Triple-A Syracuse. Megill, who hasn’t pitched since mid-May, said he hopes to begin playing catch on Friday.
Longer term, it’s possible the Mets could pursue rotation upgrades outside the organization, though Showalter cautioned against that strategy shortly after learning of Scherzer’s injury.
“The perfect world is you’re self-sustaining with your own people,” Showalter said. “There’s another opportunity for somebody to step up. And I think it creates good morale in the organization when Tylor Megill and Peterson … think that we’re going to look within first, before we start coveting somebody else’s players. We’d like to have the answers be here.”
No matter how the Mets proceed, the loss of Scherzer is troubling. He had been the linchpin of this rotation, allowing the Mets to continue their hot start to the season despite deGrom’s injury.
But as difficult as it will be for the Mets to move on without Scherzer, they are confident in their abilities as a complete roster. They won the game that Scherzer left early and came from behind to win the following afternoon, too, scoring 18 runs combined in those two contests. Even without Scherzer, the Mets see little reason why they can’t keep up this pace.
“We’ve got some rough estimates about when we’ll start to get some of these guys back, but usually, baseball throws you another curve somewhere along the way,” Showalter said. “You just keep ducking and dodging and see if you can get to the endgame.”