September 24, 2020

Yankees Not Learning From Mets Tommy John Problems

In September 2017, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera underwent Tommy John surgery. Last year, Rivera was unable to return from the surgery due to discomfort in his elbow. It has been 17 months since the surgery, and once again, Rivera has been unable to return due to discomfort in his elbow. With injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, the race to make the Opening Day roster is wide open, and Rivera cannot get off the starting line.

Last April, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud underwent Tommy John surgery. Less than a year after the surgery, reports are d’Arnaud is having difficulty getting his footwork and throwing back in sync. As a result, he has only played in one Spring Training game, as a DH, and the Mets have brought Devin Mesoraco back to compete for the backup catcher job.

Despite being separated by just 9.9 miles away from Citi Field and fighting for the same tabloid back pages, the Yankees have seemingly ignored what has happened with in Queens. Rather than being proactive about Didi Gregorius and his Tommy John surgery, the Yankees appear to be a reactive and utilizing stop gaps.

With Manny Machado a free agent, a player who wanted to be a Yankee, the Yankees instead opted to sign Troy Tulowitzki to a deal for the Major League minimum to be their shortstop until Gregorius returns. For his part, Tulowitzki is coming off the same double heel surgery Yoenis Cespedes underwent last season.

Really, the Yankees plan is for Tulowitzki to turn back the clock at the age of 34, a point in a player’s career where they are usually at the beginning of their decline. They are hoping Tulowitzki can at least hold the fort until Gregorius is able to return to the lineup, which judging from what we see from the Mets, is far from a certainty.

Now, it is fair to point out Tulowitzki is hitting well this Spring. It is also fair to point out the Mets have had their own issues with handling players with injuries. That goes double with Tommy John surgery. After all, Matt Harvey was never the same after 2015. It took Zack Wheeler three-and-a-half years after his surgery to reach his potential. Jeremy Hefner would never be the same again.

It’s quite possible the Yankees are much better at dealing with injuries than the Mets. Everyone else seems to be. However, there is a line between trusting your medical and rehabilitation team and with risking everything on an injured player. For the Yankees, they have to make up eight games in the division to the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox. Instead of gambling on Machado, a player who has been a 5.7 WAR or better player in three of the last four years, the Yankees are relying upon a shortstop coming back from injury to hold down the fort until another shortstop coming back from injury can retake the field