Step #2: Prepare Edwin Diaz for a role in high-leverage, late-innings situations
Why should the Mets lock Lugo into the closer role instead of using him more strategically? Because they happen to have another interesting weapon in their bullpen.
Diaz has largely been a bust since the trade that brought him from Seattle to Flushing. The former All-Star and AL saves leader has been a shell of his dominant self since arriving on the Mets. After recording a league-high 57 saves in 2018, he posted a measly 26 in 2019 and just one before losing his closer job in 2020. This is hardly the production the Mets expected from the centerpiece of their blockbuster trade.
However, there is reason for optimism. While Diaz may never recapture his 50+ save form, there is reason to believe he has turned a corner. The former Reliever of the Year award recipient has rebounded from a disastrous start to the season by posting a tidy 2.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts in just 10.2 innings of work in 2020. This is a ridiculously small sample size, it shows that there is still potential for Diaz to be a valuable weapon.
If the Mets use Lugo as the closer, they will still need a capable arm to face the heart of the opposing lineup late in games. Diaz is the perfect man for this job.
Being separated from the pressures of 9th inning work seems to have helped the 26-year-old regain his confidence and rhythm. There is no reason for the Mets to mess with this formula. If Diaz can pitch around the top hitters in the 7th or 8th innings and retain his sub-2.50 ERA, he can provide the help the Mets need.
Step #3: Sign quality reliever (Blake Treinen)
While I am much more optimistic about Diaz’s potential than many Mets fans, I am not willing to move forward without hedging my bet. Lugo is as consistent and reliable as they come. Diaz is exactly the opposite. It will be important for New York to add another capable arm that is capable of stepping up when needed.
There are a number of interesting options that could be available. Stars like Alex Colome, Ken Giles, Kirby Yates, Brand Hand, Blake Treinen, and Liam Hendricks are all set to become free agents at the end of the season. Players like Will Smith, Greg Holland, Felipe Vazquez, and Mychal Givens are all relievers mentioned as trade possibilities as well.
A player with closer experience would be a major weapon and insurance policy in the event either Lugo or Diaz struggle or suffer an injury. However, players like Yates, Hand, and Hendricks will all have a hefty price tag. It seems like the Mets would be better suited for a middle-grade, less expensive option.
Giles is coming off an injury-laden season and will be over 30 years old by the time the 2021 season begins. He would be a great weapon.
However, the Mets have larger holes to fill outside the bullpen. And they are notoriously thrifty with their cash. This makes a player like Treinen a much more realistic option. The former Athletics’ closer is having a resurgence as a valuable member of the Dodgers bullpen this season. His ERA is down to a tidy 1.38 and he has shown he still has the ability to miss bats.
His disastrous 2019 season, coupled with his age (32) should place him into the Mets price range. Brodie Van Wagenen should pursue Treinen with hopes of converting him into the Mets’ equivalent of Zack Britton.