The Yankees had so much to be glad about on Monday night in Seattle. Their offense pounded Mariners starter Logan Gilbert and took a 7-2 lead into the middle of the ballgame, giving them serious hope of snapping their five-game winning streak as they seek to escape their second-half funk. But an ominous event from the early innings of the game had an ugly postscript that emerged as the team hit in the top of the sixth.
In the first inning, DH Matt Carpenter fouled a ball off his back foot and grimaced in pain. He took a few moments to complete the at-bat with a strikeout, but manager Aaron Boone pulled him in the third, as Tim Locastro took his spot in the lineup. It didn’t look pretty at the time, and the Yankees’ worst fears were confirmed: Carpenter broke his foot.
Matt Carpenter left tonight's game with a left foot fracture.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 9, 2022
This is obviously a tough loss for a Yankees lineup that is already missing Giancarlo Stanton on the IL and Anthony Rizzo on the bench with back tightness, but it’s so much more difficult for Carpenter himself. Major League Baseball had seemingly left his career for dead after a grueling couple of final seasons in St. Louis, and he had to settle for a make-good minor-league deal with the Rangers in April.
Carpenter opted out of that Rangers deal in May, and with an opening at the time, the Yankees were reportedly the only team to take a flyer on him. Suddenly, the three-time All-Star’s bat came back to life, as he hit .305/.412/.727 with 15 homers in just 154 plate appearances, good for an astonishing 216 wRC+. For comparison’s sake, Aaron Judge is in the middle of an MVP season at the plate, and he entered play on Monday with a 193 wRC+. Carpenter had quickly made himself an essential part of the lineup on one of the best teams in baseball with a hotter bat than he’d shown in years.
Now, Carp’s season is likely over since broken feet don’t exactly heal in a hurry, especially when you’re nearing age-37. As Josh noted in our Slack, Tigers rookie Riley Greene broke his foot near the end of spring training on April 2nd, and he didn’t play for Detroit again until June 18th. Baseball Prospectus editor Craig Goldstein shared this chart of similar recovery timelines for this injury:
I'm gonna update this because I refined the search to exclude broken toes, which are injecting a lot of variability. Much different timeline for foot injuries proper— Cronko Tonko (@cdgoldstein) August 9, 2022
cc @DBITLefty @pinstripealley @GaryHPhillips pic.twitter.com/sUMQFIdaf7
So maybe there’s an absolute best-case scenario where Carpenter can recover and rehab in some minor league playoff games in September (or even Arizona Fall League action like Kyle Schwarber in 2016) and tune up for the MLB postseason. After the game on Monday, Carpenter told reporters that he’s refusing to believe that this will be the end of him in 2022, but the Yankees can’t exactly bank on that at this point. We’re hoping like hell that it works out.
Nonetheless, if those 47 games were all we’ll ever see of Carpenter in pinstripes, then what an unexpected but wonderful run it was.
The Yankees will likely have to recall Miguel Andújar or someone like that in Triple-A to take his roster spot. Estevan Florial, Oswaldo Cabrera, and yes, even prospect Oswald Peraza are also candidates since they hold 40-man roster spots, but Andújar is the most likely candidate since it’s unclear why the Yankees would have bothered keeping him on the 40-man if they weren’t going to promote him to replace DH-type (particularly in a potential short-term scenario with Stanton ideally back soon).