New York Mets: Expectations for their new closer Edwin Diaz
A look at what New York Mets fans can expect from their new closer, Edwin Diaz.
As part of the blockbuster trade between the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners, in exchange for unloading Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak along with top Mets prospects Justin Dunn, Jarred Kelenic and Gerson Bautista, the Mariners are sending their All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to the Queens, along with Robinson Cano and cash considerations.
Diaz is what many are considering to the be the cornerstone of the trade, as he is one of baseball’s hot young talents who has caught the league by storm in just three years in the majors.
At 24 years old, Edwin has spent the past three seasons in the majors where he has established himself as one of the top relief pitchers in the league. In those three years, Diaz has appeared in 188 games for the Mariners, stretching over 191.0 innings where he has logged a 2.64 career ERA, along with 109 career saves and 301 strikeouts.
Diaz is a right-handed reliever known for having a live arm and is a high strikeout pitcher, with an average fastball velocity of 97.7. Additionally, he throws a change-up and slider as his two breaking ball pitches. Through the 2018 season, he has averaged 14.2 strikeouts per 9 innings.
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A native Puerto Rican, Diaz began playing baseball in his local town at the age of 7, originally as an outfielder. Eventually, when he was 15 years old he transitioned to becoming a pitcher. Diaz went on to attend Caguas Military Academy where he continued to pitch an caught the attention of several MLB scouts.
Later on, as part of the 2012 MLB draft, Diaz was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the third round, 98th overall, at the age of 18, despite pitching for 3 years.
Diaz quickly rose through the ranks in Seattle’s minor league system, originally beginning his professional career as a starting pitcher. In both 2014 and 2015, Diaz was voted his organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year while working his way through Single-A and Double-A ball.
Despite establishing himself as one of the top young starting pitchers, in 2016 while playing with the Mariner’s Double-A affiliate Jackson Generals, Diaz was moved to the bullpen, where he went on to continue his impressive resume.
After three years in the minor leagues, at 22 years old, he was called up to the majors on June 4, 2016, straight from Double-A, and joined the Seattle Mariner’s bullpen.
By over a stretch in late June to early July, Diaz set a Seattle franchise record after recording 11 consecutive outs via strikeout. After just two months in the majors, he took over as closer as the Mariners’ closer after Steve Cishek was placed on the DL with a hip injury.
Diaz continued to thrive in the role and finished his rookie season with a 2.79 ERA with 88 strikeouts over 51.2 innings while logging 18 saves. He finished in 5th place for Rookie of the Year voting.
Despite Cishek’s return the following year, Diaz continued on as Seattle’s closer. In his first full season in the majors, he pitched in 66 games with a 3.27 ERA, registering 89 strikeouts and 34 saves.
In 2018, he took his game to another level. Over a career-high 73 relief appearances, Diaz logged 73.1 innings with a career-high 128 strikeouts, an impressive 1.96 ERA and league-leading 57 saves. Diaz was selected to the All-Star game for the first time in his career in 2018, and also at just 24 years old, became the youngest player to collect 50 saves in a season.
His 57 saves last season is tied with Bobby Thigpen for second-most saves recorded in a single season, trailing only former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, who holds the single-season saves with 62 in 2008.
What to expect from Edwin Diaz with the Mets
Just to recap, Diaz is a high strikeout pitcher with a career ERA of 2.64. He’s coming off of the best season of his young career and at 24 years old, he likely has plenty more great years ahead of him. Since he is so young, the Mets will have him under team control for several years going forward.
For the 2019 season, the Mets will be able to pay him the league minimum, as he is not arbitration eligible until the 2020 season and after then, won’t be a free agent until 2023. Since they can get away with paying him well below what a player of his talent charges on the open market, this gives the Mets the flexibility to sign additional free agents to help bolster the bullpen.
The Mets bullpen was one of the biggest issues they were looking to address this offseason. Last season, the team’s combined bullpen ERA was 4.96, good enough for 28th in the MLB last year.
With a wealth of other relievers still on the market, signing someone like Adam Ottavino or if the Mets to go after Andrew Miller, the bullpen could quickly go from being our biggest weakness into one of our strengths.
This trade is a great step forward in addressing the mistakes from last season, and hopefully, with more moves still to come, the Mets could very well be putting a contending team on the field on opening day, with our new All-Star closer headlining it for years to come.
In summary, welcome to Queens, Edwin.