After a tumultuous start to his tenure with the New York Mets, Edwin Diaz resigned this past offseason following a season which he won the 2022 Reliever of the Year award. Signing for a whopping 5-year, $100 million deal, Diaz can realistically end up as the best relief pitcher the Mets ever sign in free agency, and maybe even the best in franchise history.
However, that first honor currently goes to Billy Wagner. A multi time All-Star and Cy Young finalist, Wagner was electric during his four-year stint with the Mets and played a huge role in their resurgence from 2006-2008.
Billy Wagner ended up being the best relief pitcher the Mets have ever signed in free agency.
Prior to his time in Queens, Wagner had already established himself as one of the elite closers in the league. "Billy the Kid" was a four time All-Star, with a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young voting in 1999 as a career highlight. The Mets, in need of a reliable closer at the time, gave Wagner a four year, $44 million contract at the end of the 2005 season, snagging him away from the Philadelphia Phillies in the process.
The gamble on Wagner paid off immediately for the Mets, as he racked up 40 saves with a 2.24 ERA during the 2006 campaign. He once again recieved Cy Young votes, finishing a respectable sixth place while the Mets won their first NL East division title in 18 years. He was just as good during his 2007 and 2008 seasons; however, Tommy John surgery late in 2008 forced him to the sideline and ultimately ended his Mets career. When it was all said and done, Wagner was a two-time All Star in New York, with a 2.37 ERA to go along with 101 saves and 230 strikeouts.
Sadly, what some Mets fans remember most about Wagner's tenure were his shortcomings. He fell apart during the 2006 Postseason run, giving up six runs over 5.2 innings and blowing a save in a crucial Game 2 loss during the NLCS. He was also at fault during the infamous 2007 collapse as well, recording a 6.23 ERA in August and gave up runs during three of his final four appearances that season.
Despite this, Billy Wagner gave the Mets something they desperately needed during his tenure; a reliable option to close out games. Even though he was only a Met for three seasons, Wagner is regarded as one of the best closers in franchise history. He is also seen as one of the best closers to ever play the sport, just narrowly missing the votes required to make the Hall of Fame, to the dismay of many. Edwin Diaz has a great chance to be the greatest closer in Mets history, but for the time being, Billy Wagner stands as one of the best Mets to pitch in the ninth inning.