Tommy John surgery’s latest victim is not someone you would normally expect. Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Corey Seager is expected to miss all of 2018 due to the surgery, the team announced Monday.
Seager has been dealing with the issue since late 2017, but the team believed rest and recovery during the offseason would be enough to heal the injury.
How big of a blow is this?
The injury should have a significant impact on the Dodgers moving forward. Seager wasn’t off to a strong start, hitting just .267/.348/.396 to start the year, but he’s been one of the team’s best hitters — and he’s made the All-Star team the past two seasons.
Utility man Chris Taylor should be Seager’s replacement for now. He turned in a breakout season in 2017, hitting .288/.354/.496, with 21 home runs, over 568 plate appearances. He’s off to a slow start in 2018, hitting just .233/.273/.425. Even if Taylor can still capture last year’s magic, he’s won’t produce at the same level as Seager.
Where else might the Dodgers turn?
Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado seems to the be the popular choice. Everyone anticipates the Orioles will deal the 25-year-old before the end of the season. He’s in the final year of his contract, and Baltimore is not considered a threat to re-sign him. Machado is also off to a tremendous start, hitting .361/.448/.676 over his first 125 plate appearances.
It’s not that easy, though. Machado is one of the best players in baseball, and it’s going to cost the Dodgers a pretty penny to pry him away from Baltimore. We’re talking multiple prospects — at least one of whom has to be close to elite.
What is Tommy John surgery?
The procedure is one of the most infamous surgeries a pitcher can have these days. It occurs with the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow is injured. Doctors will replace that injured ligament with a healthy replacement — sometimes from that person’s body. The surgery was first performed on — you guessed it — a pitcher named Tommy John. You can read Jeff Passan’s “The Arm” for a highly in-depth breakdown of the procedure.
While Tommy John surgery is typically reserved for pitchers, position players can also have the procedure. New York Yankees infield prospect Gleyber Torres missed most of 2017 with a similar injury in the minors.
The recovery from pitchers is thought to be anywhere between 12 to 18 months. For position players, recovery is thought to be shorter — mostly because they don’t have to throw as much. It’s not as if the Dodgers can use Seager as a designated hitter when he returns, so they may opt to be cautious with him until they are sure he can make the throw from short regularly without pain.
Why did the Seager wait until now to have surgery?
The team believed rest and recovery may have been all Seager needed. The 24-year-old Seager has dealt with the injury on and off since late in 2017. In September, it was reported Seager was not throwing at 100 percent due to the injury. He managed to avoid surgery in the offseason, instead opting to rehab the injury.
Seager got a late start in camp in February due to the issue, but said the injury was behind him. The team planned to slowly ease him into spring training to make sure that was the case.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case, and now Seager will miss all of 2018. While that’s a big blow, the team felt it was worth the risk for Seager to try and let rest cure the issue. Some pitchers — like Masahiro Tanaka and Ervin Santana — have been able to pitch for multiple years with partially torn UCLs. Surgery isn’t always the best option immediately.
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