Johan Santana Needs Elbow Surgery: Wilpon Should Rethink Things on Omar

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IAugust 25, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 20:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves on August 20, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Just as this article was published, there was a report which said that Johan Santana DOES need elbow surgery, but not Tommy John Surgery, only to clean up bone chips in the elbow. This "minor" surgery does not change my opinon on which way Fred Wilpon needs to proceed for the benefit of the organization.

The original article:

Recent reports have suggested that New York Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey and new injured player Jeff Franceuor both have said that Johan Santana might need elbow surgery. Santana has had elbow discomfort since the All Star break.

According to Mets manager Jerry Manuel, Santana began to recently feel a deeper pain, something he was not accustomed this season. A much different feeling than during the prior two starts.

Santana does have a history of elbow problems, something I pointed out back in February 2009. An MRI is to be taken today.

Whether or not Santana needs surgery, this is a huge blow for the Mets. Already coming off two blown division leads in 2007 and 2008, and an already disastrous, injury-plagued 2009, the least they can afford is a lengthy absence into 2010 for their only dependable starting pitcher. 

Or it can be a blessing in disguise.

Mets General Manager (and I used that term loosely) Omar Minaya has been granted a reprieve from the governor (Fred Wilpon) just when all the citizens (Met fans) wanted his head. Wilpon announced last week that Minaya will be the GM next season.

Minaya has had just as bad a season as his team has had on the field.

While there is not much that can be done about the injuries to David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and John Maine, Minaya had no backup plan available in case disaster struck. Other than Jonathan Niese and Fernando Martinez, there were no younger talent ready as replacements, certainly not any at the higher levels.

While the major league team is very top heavy in talent, so are the minor leagues, players with good potential, but not enough of the versatile players needed to help form a roster.

For example, when the Yankees has injuries this year, they called upon Alfredo Aceves, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, Phil Hughes, Mark Melancon and David Robertson. When the Mets had injuries, they called upon Anderson Hernandez, Wilson Valdez, Ken Takahaski, Elmer Dessens and Ramon Martinez.

The problem with the Mets this past year was not the construction of the 25 man roster, but the formation of the 40 man roster.

There were too many 30+ to 40 year olds on that roster, and not enough of the 22 to 28 year olds. And before the recent Santana injury, the Minaya general idea to go into next season was more of the same; signing overpriced and over 30 year old free agents.

Assuming the Mets get all their core players back healthy (except Carlos Delgado, who shouldn’t be brought back), they still needed to address a power hitting left fielder and one, and now maybe two starting pitchers.

Without making a deal for a pitcher the rotation next year was likely Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Jonathan Niese.

Sound appealing Met fans? Maybe, although Maine and Perez are huge question marks. Maine due to the health of his shoulder and Perez due to his actually being the worst veteran pitcher in the National League, but getting paid a ton of money. 

And the Mets still need a power hitting left fielder.

Now Santana's elbow is acting up, and there is a chance (according to Drs. Pelfrey and Franceuor, LLC), that surgery is needed. If surgery is needed, then depending on the severity (TJS vs. bone chips removed), there is another big question mark in the rotation for next year.

Now, instead of needing one other top pitcher, the Mets might need two.

Paging John Lackey, your Brinks truck has just arrived!

Will other free agent pitchers like Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard and Joel Pineiro bring excitement to CitiField? That is what is available on the potential free agent market. As the best free agent pitcher available, Lackey will want about $20 million per season.

And what about left field? Jason Bay (age 31 next year) and Matt Holliday (age 30), will command up to five year deals for at least $50 million.

My guess is that Pineiro and Holliday love St. Louis too much and will re-sign there, which gives the other free agents that much more leverage.

Do you as a Mets fans trust Omar Minaya to rebuild this team with getting another top pitcher, a left fielder and some bench help? And why would these free agents want any part of what is the laughingstock franchise in baseball?  

While other teams continue to build through their system, getting younger (and better), the Mets will continue to get older, and presumably worse.

If Santana needs minor surgery, he should get it done now, and try and get ready as soon as he can for next season. If, however, Santana needs big time surgery and will miss a period of time, Santana's new elbow woes gives the Mets an opportunity to not look to just next season, but towards their future.

They need to think internal, and not with a free agent mind set. That is drafting and developing talent that keep producing new players who step and replace aging veterans.

Minaya doesn't have a track record of doing the development process (either in New York or when he was Montreal GM), and Mr. Wilpon needs to re-evaluate his pronouncement of his current GM returning.

It might be a blessing in disguise that the Mets are having to go through the process of this disabling season, with the Santana injury being the coup de grace to Omar. They can actually make a shift in their process of the last couple seasons, and begin to do what the Marlins, Rays, Dodgers, Cardinals, White Sox, Angels, Rockies have been doing - to get younger and build most of their team from within.

A total shift where Mr. Wilpon needs to rethink his prior decisions.



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