Well, if there was a worst-case scenario for the Mets and Johan Santana: this is it. Sandy Alderson announced on SNY this evening that Santana has likely re-torn his anterior capsule in his left shoulder. This is the exact same injury Santana suffered a few years ago that forced him to have surgery in September 2010. The injury caused him to miss then entire 2011 season, and left him unable to handle a full workload in 2012.
This is absolutely devastating for the Mets in two ways. It really hurts the pitching rotation of course. The rotation looked decent with Santana in there, but now it appears the Mets will need to either acquire another starter, use a “filler” pitcher such as Jeremy Hefner or Collin McHugh, or thrust one of their pitching prospects into a role that are probably not ready for. Although Santana was having trouble this spring and was out indefinitely, there was at least some expectation that with the arm strength built up from the two thirds of a season he pitched last year, he would be able to contribute for at least most of the season. Now, that’s all gone.
There is another that has hurt the Mets badly in the past and will come around to bite them again this time: money. Santana is in the last year of a six-year, $137.5 million contract. He is owed $25.5 million this season in salary with a $25 million club option next year. The buyout for net year is $5.5 million, so the Mets owe Santana $31 million over the next eight months. However, this hurts the Mets even more than you might expect because thanks to insurance rates skyrocketing when Santana signed his contract, the deal is uninsured, meaning the Mets are on the hook for the full $31 million owed to him.
The sad part of all this is how far Santana has fallen. Some Mets fans might not remember this because of all of the recent injury problems he has had, but in the first few years of his contract, Santana was arguably the best pitcher in the National League. He was absolutely dominant. In 2008, you could’ve made a case that he deserved the Cy Young Award over Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb. He was incredible. But since then, he hasn’t been the same. He has lost some zip on his pitches, and last year, was more crafty than he was dominant. He was no longer able to get by with just embarrassing hitters. He had to outsmart them. While he was good at that too, he wasn’t quite the same from his years in Minnesota and early years with the Mets. We saw a glimpse into his greatness last June when he threw the first ever no-hitter by a Met, but we soon saw that dominance dissipate, and all that was left was an injury-prone shell of what he once was.
Looking back at this spring, there were some suspicious signs that he was hiding an injury. Throwing bullpen sessions on the backfields. Not reporting to camp early, like an injured pitcher typically would. The fighting with the front office. He clearly saw this coming, but the competitor in him refused to let down. It wasn’t the best decision, of course, and it probably cost him this season, but it was what he felt he needed to do to get back on the mound. I find it hard to imagine Santana ever pitching in the majors again. He’s too broken and too fragile. It’s such a shame that such an amazing talent will always be remembered fro not being able to stay on the field.