Mets Monday Morning GM: An uncertain future for Edwin Diaz
By Tim Boyle
Edwin Diaz reaches free agency after the 2022 season. It’s coming fast. Three seasons into his career as a member of the New York Mets, the flamethrowing closer is 9-14 with a 4.00 ERA. He has a grand total of 64 saves, only 7 more than he had in 2018 as a member of the Seattle Mariners.
The number of saves a closer has doesn’t always define their productivity. They need the opportunity. Factor in all of the missed time in 2020 and it makes a little more sense but doesn’t change the fact that he has averaged about an earned run and a half more with the Mets than he did with the Mariners.
For some armchair general managers, it’s an easy decision. Diaz has failed to live up to expectations. And while there is hope he can become a more consistent closer, where’s the guarantee? Others like his stuff enough and may be under belief that the devil they know is better than the one they don’t. What’s more, the biggest question then arises. If not Diaz, who?
Moving on from Edwin Diaz puts the Mets in a position to acquire a similar closer
As a franchise, the Mets have been pretty good at finding their next closer. Trades for Jesse Orosco, John Franco, and Armando Benitez helped solidify the position. Their ability to also develop arms from scratch is commendable. From the 1986 Mets alone, Rick Aguilera and Randy Myers would go on to finish their MLB careers with 300+ saves. Far more recently, they were successfully transitioning Jeurys Familia into the job, as temporary as it was in retrospect.
The closer spot has changed drastically from the days of Orosco and even Benitez two decades ago. It was probably around the time when the Mets signed Billy Wagner that the role became closer to what it is today. People started caring about saves a lot. Closers were actually viewed as more than failed starters that threw hard.
Most closers aren’t built for the role. Like so many of his colleagues, Diaz was a starting pitcher in the minor leagues. It wasn’t until 2016 when he started pitching in relief a little more often and got his first save at the Double-A level. His success propelled him to the major leagues where he dug his heels into the closer role.
When Diaz hits free agency, the Mets can sign someone else, hand the job to a guy they already have and trust, or repeat history and pull off a big trade. Diaz reaches free agency at a relatively young 29, likely making him one of the more desirable bullpen arms for general managers to drool over. Despite his shortcomings, Diaz is going to be desired on the open market. This doesn’t mean the Mets should keep him at all.
Coincidentally enough, the Mets have several other notable relievers reaching the open market after this season, too. If you thought moving Seth Lugo into the closer role was an option, you may want to think again. He is also a free agent after the 2022 season. What about Trevor May? Meh, maybe not. He was signed to only a two-year contract. This coming year is that second season.
The Mets won’t punt at the closer spot. It’s an essential role they need to feel secure with. Diaz’s 2022 performance will go a long way to determining how this rebuilt front office regime thinks about him. As we’ve seen them do, they will put a cap on how much they’re willing to spend on a particular player. They also have parted ways with many longtime Mets whether by choice or a lack of matching what the player desired.
It’s easy to understand fellow 2022-2023 free agent Brandon Nimmo and his possible future with the Mets. In Diaz’s case, year four could be a finale.