The reality of Edwin Díaz’ shocking, unusual knee injury is only becoming clearer. The best closer in baseball, whose 2022 season with the New York Mets was one of the great relief seasons in MLB history, is unlikely to serve in 2023 after tearing a kneecap tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday in the World Baseball Classic.
It was a sickening relegation after Díaz wrapped up a thrilling, high-energy game that sent his team into the WBC quarterfinals and rebounded the favored DR team. The most immediate takeaway is simply disappointment for Díaz, for his clearly dejected Puerto Rican teammates, and for Mets fans who are missing out Díaz’s insane signature opening music for the first season of the five-year, $102 million deal he signed to remain in New York.
And now the Mets must trudge forward without a key piece of the team and clubhouse. With a massive payroll and a star-studded roster, their goal is undoubtedly still the World Series. But Díaz’s injury raises some big questions before opening day even arrives.
How much will Edwin Diaz’s Injury hurts the Mets?
You can answer that question with a view to granular 2023 predictions or the full narrative of the Mets’ quest to build a juggernaut under team owner Steve Cohen. The gist is the same in both cases: a whole lot.
Let’s start with the granular. A week ago, FanGraphs depth chart projections saw the Mets bullpen as the third-best unit in MLB heading into the season, behind the Atlanta Braves and basically level with the San Diego Padres. Unsurprisingly, Díaz carried a large portion of that expected value. He was predicted to run a 2.36 ERA over about 60 innings and batter more than 40% of the batters he faced. That’s a remarkable line for an inherently conservative projection system, but it was well deserved. Since a rocky introduction with the Mets in 2019, Díaz has shined with a 2.27 ERA, 70 saves and an MLB-best strikeout rate of 42.7% over 150 1/3 innings.
Without him, The Mets bullpen now ranks 20th on FanGraphs depth charts, sandwiched between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. Now it should be noted that there are other forces at play besides Díaz. The Mets’ bullpen depth options are also being stretched thin by other injuries, most notably Jose Quintana in the starting rotation.
Last year, despite Díaz’s exploits, the Mets had the 11th-best park-adapted bullpen in the MLB ERA-. It’s entirely possible to reach the postseason with an underperforming bullpen — the Phillies finished 22nd last season — but it’s not everyone’s idea of a good, fun plan.
Zoomed out, the damage to the Mets’ big ambitions is less quantifiable, but perhaps more devastating. Cohen and GM Billy Eppler built a 101-win team last year and are back in 2023 with the biggest payroll in baseball history. On the one hand, that shows a pretty obvious commitment to win that will presumably last for the remaining four years of Díaz’s contract when he can hopefully serve as well, or almost as well, as he has in the last three seasons. Then again, realistically, the Mets were built to peak in 2023 and 2024.
Instead of two guaranteed cracks in a World Series run with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Díaz soaking up crucial innings, the Mets are effectively down to one guaranteed year in which they are all under contract. Scherzer will be a free agent after 2024. Verlander has an option for 2025. And both are already extreme outliers on the aging front. Cohen can (and probably will) go out and find stars to sign when they leave, retire, or give up, but it’s often just not possible to attract players as good as Scherzer and Verlander.
The Mets had a clear window into 2023 and 2024 built around spectacular but aging starting pitchers, a suspended lineup and Díaz. Rotation was seen as the biggest risk (perhaps it still is), but Díaz’s injury immediately reduces the entire venture to a less daunting size for other NL contenders.
What will the bullpen look like without Diaz?
It’s been less than 24 hours since Díaz’s leg gave way in Miami, so manager Buck Showalter and the Mets understandably haven’t detailed their entire plan for coping with the loss. But we can start making some guesses.
Adam Ottavino and David Robertson – all 37 years old by the way – are now the best and most trusted guns in the bullpen. They were meant to be the setup men and now they envision handling both setup and closer roles between them. Both were spectacular in 2022, but Ottavino’s underlying numbers were a little more reassuring. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he gets the saves. Robertson has spent years as a head closer, including around town for the Yankees. Whether because Ottavino has never consistently carried that load or because Showalter would simply prefer to use it at the moment of greatest leverage — as he even did with Díaz on occasion — the slider sling righty could be the ace of relief without getting any closer to be.
However, the difference between a manageable dropoff and a bullpen disaster will likely be settled further down the depth chart. The biggest question revolves around how much the Mets will need young starters David Peterson and Tylor Megill. Each has shown promise and could help stabilize the bullpen, but they may be even more necessary for the rotation as Quintana has been out for months and two aces are pushing at or above 40. Megill famously started on opening day in 2022 when Jacob deGrom could. don’t take the ball
Additionally, there are some new options to sort through, with that assessment suddenly becoming more pressing. Eppler added Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Brooks Raley and his role characters in the offseason to add a little more pressure. He rose in 2022 after that leaning into his slider as a go-to pitch.
Other new faces include Elieser Hernandez and Jeff Brigham, both traded from the Marlins, and John Curtiss, a big right-hander who also found his effectiveness with the Rays. Drew Smith, a returning Mets arm who has made strides forward the past two seasons but has struggled to contain home runs, is also being asked to take over the ball at some more critical moments.
Could the Mets take steps to get more bullpen help?
If outside help is to be on the way, the first name on the radar is Zack Britton – Showalter’s former Baltimore locksmith. He’s actually younger than Ottavino, Robertson, and just about every other Mets pitcher you’ve heard of, but he’s only pitched 19 innings the last two seasons. Still, he’s reportedly throwing for teams looking for a major league job this week.
Otherwise, a splashy move for bullpen aid ahead of the summer seems unlikely.
In the meantime, the best thing the Mets can do, unsatisfying as it sounds, is play well enough with the rest of their stars that Díaz’s loss is felt less severely. The 2022 Mets were 21-15 in one-run games, which was good but didn’t deviate from their overall performance like some bullpen-centric winners have.
The 2023 Mets will have more than enough talent to contend for the NL East — and the pennant — with Mere Mortals taking ninth place. There’s just a lot less room for error than there was just a few days ago, and there are no more trumpets to drown out the doubts that always lurk around Queens.
Source : sports.yahoo.com