Nimmo nears return; Cohen on extensions

June 20th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The Mets took a significant step closer to being whole on Sunday, when outfielder began a Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Syracuse. Nimmo had been sidelined since May 3 due to a torn ligament near the base of his left index finger, which doctors initially struggled to diagnose.

That led to a lengthy rehab period replete with fits and starts, but Nimmo began taking full batting practice earlier this month without pain in his hand. He recently estimated he would need approximately 20 at-bats of live game action before being ready for activation. That process should take about a week, putting Nimmo on track for a return next weekend, or at least by the end of June.

“It all depends on how quickly you get back into the rhythm of the game,” Nimmo said last week. “I don’t ever take a month off of baseball until the offseason, and then you come back and you have Spring Training and then you get 90 at-bats there. So this is a little bit of a different situation, and it will be dictated on whenever I am able to be at game speed again.”

When Nimmo returns, he should resume his role atop New York’s batting order. The team has mostly used Jonathan Villar at leadoff in Nimmo’s absence, while mixing in Luis Guillorme, Kevin Pillar and Billy McKinney on occasion. But Nimmo, who held a .430 on-base percentage before landing on the IL, has proven himself as one of the game’s top leadoff men.

The Mets are also due to get Jeff McNeil (strained left hamstring) back from the IL on Monday, with Michael Conforto (strained right hamstring) set to follow in the coming days.

Money matters
Mets owner Steve Cohen flew to Washington to take in Sunday’s series finale at Nationals Park. Among the topics he discussed publicly during his visit were the potential contract extensions for -- who has an opt-out on his deal after the 2022 season -- and , who can become a free agent after this season.

“I don’t think it’s the right moment,” Cohen said of deGrom, noting that the Mets engaged the two-time Cy Young Award winner in nothing more than casual talks last winter. “We’re focused on this year. Obviously, it’s something we’re thinking about. Listen, we love Jacob. ... I don’t think I could pitch to a 0.54 ERA. He’s special.”

deGrom is due to make $35.5 million next season, with another $32.5 million guaranteed in 2023 and a $32.5 million team option for 2024. If he opts out after 2022, deGrom would sacrifice the latter two salaries in search of a larger guarantee. The situation is similar to what Clayton Kershaw faced after the 2018 season, when his opt-out clause prompted the Dodgers to negotiate a three-year, $93 million extension. The Mets could ultimately do something like that with deGrom, who will be 34 years old when he’s eligible to opt out.

As for Stroman, whom the Mets did not engage in contract talks last winter, Cohen indicated he would prefer to defer such discussions until the offseason. The Mets do have deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and David Peterson under contract for next year, giving them a strong rotation base heading into the winter.

“We’ll figure it out when we get there,” Cohen said of Stroman, who has pitched to a 2.35 ERA this season. “We don’t have to figure it out now.”

Roster move
Prior to Sunday’s series finale in Washington, the Mets selected the contract of right-hander and designated outfielder for assignment.

Eickhoff, a veteran of five big league seasons with the Phillies, was available out of the bullpen for Sunday’s game. He is also a candidate to start Game 2 of the Mets’ Monday doubleheader against the Braves at Citi Field. The Mets are hoping for as much length out of their starers as possible during this stretch of three doubleheaders in seven days, particularly with on the injured list. (Lucchesi, who is dealing with a bout of left elbow inflammation, will go for an MRI on Monday.)

Williams appeared in 17 games for the Mets, hitting .212 with a .631 OPS. His roster spot became expendable when Albert Almora Jr. returned from the IL this weekend.

All systems go
On Sunday, deGrom completed the final step in his return from right shoulder soreness, which knocked him out of Wednesday’s start after three perfect innings. Fresh off a pair of bullpen sessions earlier this weekend, deGrom played catch at Nationals Park and affirmed that he intends to start on Monday against the Braves.

“That’s the plan,” deGrom said.