NEW YORK -- Regardless what the future still holds, injuries will always define Juan Lagares' Mets career. Never has Lagares, the Mets' Gold Glove center fielder, enjoyed a full, healthy big league season. This year, he did not come particularly close.
Lagares is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in the big toe of his left foot, the Mets announced Friday. The team placed him on the 10-day disabled list, reinstating reliever Jerry Blevins from paternity leave, with plans to send Lagares for surgery next week.
"It's going to hurt us a little bit," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We counted on Juan off the bench at times. He was probably in a situation where he was going to start playing a little more than he had, with some guys out. It's going to hurt us."
Lagares banged his toe into the outfield fence after catching a fly ball in the ninth inning of the Mets' loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He subsequently underwent an MRI, which revealed a complete tear of the big toe plantar plate, a thick, supporting ligament.
Add that to the litany of injuries Lagares has suffered over the years: a pair of muscle strains in 2014, his Gold Glove Award season, as well as a hyperextended right elbow that cut that campaign short; more muscle woes the following year, as well as a lingering elbow issue; a torn left thumb ligament in 2016; a fractured bone in the same thumb last season; and myriad others. Often, the injuries occurred just as Lagares was about to assume a more significant role in the team's plans.
So it was this year, when Yoenis Cespedes' assignment to the disabled list opened additional outfield reps for Lagares. The day Cespedes landed on the DL, Lagares hurt his toe.
Lagares, who was batting .339 with a .765 OPS in 30 games, was not at Citi Field on Friday afternoon, according to a Mets spokesman. As such, he was unavailable for comment.
"It's unfortunate," Callaway said. "I feel really bad for him. I know he was on a roll and playing great, and then this happens."
With Lagares and Cespedes both sidelined, the Mets will use Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce in the outfield almost every day, regardless of whether a left-handed or right-handed opposing pitcher starts. Phillip Evans will serve as the Mets' fourth outfielder, with Wilmer Flores giving the Mets additional depth in an emergency. In the Minors, veterans Matthew den Dekker, Ty Kelly, Player Page for Zach Borenstein, Cody Asche and Patrick Kivlehan offer short-term depth, but not much in the way of future potential.
Longer-term, the Mets have Lagares under team control for two more seasons, with $9 million guaranteed in 2019 and a $9.5 million team option (with a $500,000 buyout) for 2020. When healthy, he has been a productive player, producing 12.7 Wins Above Replacement in six career seasons -- much of that thanks to his superlative defense. But Lagares' Gold Glove abilities have been a double-edged sword; the same aggressiveness that has made him one of the game's best center fielders has also resulted in many of his injuries, including the current one that has cut his season short.