It’s been more than a week since Carlos Correa and the Mets agreed on a 12-year, $315 million contract, and six days since the club discovered something concerning the shortstop’s medical examination. The Mets became the second team to raise concerns about Correa’s surgically repaired right leg, with the San Francisco Giants being the first.
Correa fractured his fibula and suffered minor ligament damage high in his right ankle while playing in the minor leagues in June of 2014. A plate was inserted to stabilise the ankle and reduce the fracture, allowing the ligaments to heal.
The biggest question is what the Mets and Giants discovered in the physical that was so concerning. Dr. Laith Jazrawi, an orthopaedic sports surgeon at NYU Langone who has not treated Correa, believes the two teams saw post-traumatic arthritis in the ankle. This could lead to ankle problems within the next decade, which is well within the range of the 12-year contract the Mets offered Correa and the 13-year deal the Giants offered him before the deal fell through and he agreed to terms with the team in Queens.
“Post-traumatic arthritis — even if you stabilise it and make it perfect, there’s still an injury that’s impacted on the ankle,” Dr. Jazrawi explained over the phone to the Daily News on Thursday. “And there may be some other issues there that may necessitate surgery later on, which does not always have a good outcome.”
Correa may develop cartilage degeneration later in his career, necessitating another surgery. This could be what made the Mets and Giants nervous.
“You can clean it out sometimes, right? But that’s a problem they don’t want to deal with because it’s unpredictable,” Dr. Jazrawi explained. “Once arthritis has set in, it’s unpredictable how the athlete will respond, and it’s a degenerative process.”
According to Dr. Jazrawi, who is the team physician for NYU and LIU athletics and was named a top doctor in his field by New York Magazine in 2013, athletes who sustain similar injuries and undergo similar procedures may require additional procedures to clean out damaged cartilage or repair holes in the cartilage.
The results of these procedures vary from athlete to athlete. However, if the Mets and Giants are already showing signs of deterioration, it stands to reason that the clubs would be inclined to reduce the number of years on the contract. This also explains why the Minnesota Twins medically cleared him to play after signing as a free agent last winter — arthritis may not have appeared yet, or may not have been as severe.
He appeared injured late last season with the Twins after a player slid into his right leg and hit the plate, but he missed no time. According to Dr. Jazrawi, this is not a cause for concern.
“It’s not a big deal,” he explained. “You are free to remove the plate if it is bothering you or if it is causing you any discomfort. That is not the problem. They’re probably concerned about some X-ray findings, as well as the MRI, which revealed some other issues with the cartilage.”
Correa has not missed any games since his right leg and ankle were repaired. He did sprain his left ankle in 2015 and was on the disabled list in 2018 and 2019 due to lower back injuries, but his right leg has never been an issue in his eight-year major league career.
A year after undergoing surgery, he made his much-anticipated MLB debut and was named AL Rookie of the Year. The 28-year-old Puerto Rican is a two-time All-Star who played a key role in the Astros’ World Series victory in 2017.
If Correa and the Mets reach an agreement, he will move to third base. But, in the meantime, the staring contest continues.