The Rangers knew they were taking a Texas-sized gamble signing Jacob deGrom.
The man is the best pitcher on the planet when he’s healthy, but there’s one little problem.
He’s never healthy.
Still, the Rangers wanted to believe that all of those nagging injuries would magically go away when they signed him to a five-year, $185 million contract.
Instead, they just flushed $70 million down the toilet with the Tuesday announcement that deGrom will undergo surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which could turn out to be reconstructive Tommy John surgery.
He’ll be sidelined a minimum of 12 months, but realistically deGrom won’t be pitching again for the Rangers until 2025.
This means the Rangers will have paid deGrom $30 million for his 2-0 record and 2.67 ERA, covering just six starts and 30.1 innings this season, and $40 million next year while he recovers from surgery.
Oh, and for another kick in the stomach, the Rangers don’t have an insurance policy on him.
Buyer beware, baby.
More: MLB continues to be stricken with a nightmare epidemic: Elbow injuries
Certainly, there wasn’t a soul in baseball who wasn’t aware of this possibility. He has pitched only 156.1 innings the last two years, making six 11 starts last season. In the past four years since winning the NL Cy Young award for the second consecutive year, you name it, he has injured it.
There was the inflamed elbow, forearm tightness, wrist soreness to back tightness, neck tightness and a stress reaction in his scapula.
The New York Mets knew all of this, of course, and when he opted out of the remaining $53 million in his contract to hit free agency, the Mets still tried to sign him back. They were blinded by his fabulous talent.
DeGrom spurned them for the big money of Texas.
It turned out to be the best non-investment of Mets owner Steve Cohen’s career.
Now, he’s the Rangers’ $185 million problem.
Certainly, it was an ominous sign when he was injured the first couple of days of spring training camp with a side injury, had more nagging injuries, and pitched just 6.2 innings during the entire spring.
Still, he made his opening day start, and lasted until his fourth start when he left in the fourth inning of a no-hitter because of wrist soreness. He returned for two more starts, departing in the fourth inning in his last start on April 28 against the New York Yankees with elbow inflammation.
It will be his last in the foreseeable future, leaving the two-time Cy Young winner in tears addressing the media.
“This stinks,” he told reporters. “It is not ideal. When you are told you can’t be out there doing something you love, it’s tough. We’ve got a special group of guys here and I want to be able to get out there and help them.
“It’s a disappointment.”
Sports newsletter: Sign up now to get top sports headlines delivered daily
The Rangers, 39-20, have been doing just fine without deGrom, leading the AL West by 3.5 games over the Houston Astros. The way they were playing, they figured they could take their sweet time nursing deGrom back to health, having him fresh for a deep run in October.
Instead, that elbow inflammation turned into a full-scale tear.
“The latest pictures show that we’ve gone backwards,” Rangers GM Chris Young told reporters. “There is now structural damage, and it is significant. …
“It’s obviously a tough blow for Jacob, for certainly the Rangers.”
The Rangers obviously knew they weren’t getting a workhorse when they signed deGrom. No one was going to confuse him with Rangers icon Nolan Ryan. Ryan made 41 starts and pitched 332.2 innings in 1974 for the California Angels, and went on to make 580 more starts and pitch 3,933.1 innings. He averaged 30 starts and 193 innings after turning 35.
DeGrom, who turns 35 on June 19, has made just 44 starts and pitched 254.2 innings since 2020.
So does anyone want to bet on deGrom staying healthy and making 30 starts a year for the duration of his contract when he returns at the age of 36?
It’s just the latest elbow injury to a star performer this season, which has already resulted in Tommy John surgeries for Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, prized Houston Astros starter Luis Garcia, Colorado Rockies veteran German Marquez and top Rangers prospect Kumar Rocker. There has been nearly a 400% increase in Tommy John surgeries to minor league pitchers since 2010.
Now, after already undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010, it appears inevitable that deGrom will undergo the procedure again.
The Rangers gambled $185 million that the worst was behind deGrom, pushing all of their chips into the pot that he could stay relatively healthy for five years.
It took three weeks to go bust.
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jacob deGrom appears to be a bad investment for Texas Rangers