New York Mets: Thor’s injury will test the team’s pitching depth

Andres Chavez
Feb 16, 2020; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard warms-up during a workout at spring training. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets received some bad news on Tuesday regarding Noah Syndergaard’s health. As it turns out, he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, which means he will be undergoing Tommy John surgery on Thursday, March 26th.

The usual timetable for these injuries and surgeries is around 18 months. Some pitchers return a little earlier, but most of them do it around or after the year and a half mark. The Mets shouldn’t count on Syndergaard contributing until around the All-Star break of 2021.

That year, 2021, also happens to be the last of Syndergaard’s tenure with the Mets unless the two sides reach an agreement for an extension, which seems unlikely now.

The Mets are going to have to find a way to replace Syndergaard in the rotation. When it comes to names, they can easily slot new signings Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello (who was already expected to be a starter) to complement Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz.

Do the Mets have options to replace Thor? What about if another injury strikes?

But if we are talking numbers and performance, only deGrom carries a similar ceiling/floor than Thor. Stroman is a fine mid-rotation starter and Porcello, Matz and Wacha are good options to round out the group, but none of them carries the strikeout prowess and dominating potential of Noah Syndergaard. Only deGrom does. Of course, he is the National League’s best hurler. But there is no denying that Thor’s injury will hurt the Mets, this year and next.

The thing about Syndergaard’s Tommy John is that the team’s depth is now razor-thin. It’s amazing what an injury can do to a team’s plans: the Mets went from having six capable starters with experience to only five. What if another injury strikes?

Prospects David Peterson and Kevin Smith could be ready to contribute later this season if they prove they can master the Triple-A level first. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman both have experience starting games, but they are too valuable in the bullpen, especially the former.

Walter Lockett could develop into a backend starter, and Erasmo Ramirez was pitching very well in spring training before play was halted. Neither one represents a particularly enticing option, to be honest.

The New York Mets have some alternatives, but there is no sugarcoating it: losing Noah Syndergaard hurts the team’s playoff chances.