Texas Rangers ace Jacob deGrom will have Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, Rangers GM Chris Young announced Tuesday. He will have surgery next week, and the timing means deGrom will miss the rest of the 2023 season and at least the first two months of 2024, though likely more.
"This stinks. It's not ideal," deGrom told reporters (per the Dallas Morning News). "But at least we know what it is now. I want to get it fixed and will set a goal to be back before the end of next year."
The Rangers signed deGrom to a five-year, $185 million contract this past offseason. That contract includes a Tommy John surgery clause that now gives Texas a sixth year club option worth between $20 million and $37 million, depending on awards voting and innings totals. Tommy John surgery clauses are becoming more common --.
deGrom, 34, made six starts and threw 30 1/3 innings this season before exiting his April 28 start against the New York Yankees with forearm tightness, which is a common precursor to Tommy John surgery. deGrom had recently started throwing bullpen sessions as he prepared to rejoin the team, but apparently experienced renewed discomfort in the elbow.
Despite getting only six starts from deGrom, the Rangers entered play Wednesday with baseball's second-best record (40-20) and a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL West. The Texas rotation depth chart currently looks like this:
RHP Jacob deGrom(Tommy John surgery)
- RHP Nathan Eovaldi
- LHP Martín Pérez
- RHP Jon Gray
- LHP Andrew Heaney
- RHP Dane Dunning
- LHP Cody Bradford
This will be deGrom's second career Tommy John surgery. He had his elbow repaired for the first time in October 2010, when he was a minor league prospect with the New York Mets. The second Tommy John surgery generally comes with a longer rehab and more risk than the first, though the second surgery is not as risky now as it was 5-10 years ago.
Case in point: the aforementioned Eovaldi. The Rangers signed Eovaldi to a two-year deal worth $34 million this past winter and he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball, throwing a league-leading 80 1/3 innings with a 2.24 ERA. He had his first Tommy John surgery in 2007 and his second in 2016. Active pitchers Mike Clevinger and Jameson Taillon have both had two Tommy John surgeries as well.
Without deGrom, the Rangers still have a strong chance to make the playoffs, but their title hopes took a hit. Here's how Sportsline's projection system forecasts Texas' chances without the right-handed ace.
|Sportsline projection||Wins||Playoffs||World Series|
From 2015-19, deGrom was the best pitcher in baseball, posting a 2.61 ERA with 1,111 strikeouts in 961 1/3 innings. His two-year peak from 2018-19 was historically great -- 2.05 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and 524 strikeouts in 421 innings -- and earned deGrom two NL Cy Young awards with the Mets. He finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2020 as well.
Injuries have derailed deGrom the last three seasons, however. Elbow trouble limited him to 15 starts in 2021 and ended his season in July. In 2022, shoulder trouble delayed his season debut until August. All told, a series of arm injuries have limited deGrom to 32 starts -- albeit 32 dominant starts -- from 2021-23, his age 33-35 seasons.
These days, Tommy John surgery comes with a 14-18 month rehab, and deGrom is likely to be in the higher end of that range since this is his second elbow reconstruction. An 18-month rehab would put his 2024 season in jeopardy.