The news was a thunderclap and the case was huge – historic, even. The Mets, just hours after opening their exclusive five-day trading window with their own free agents, closed in on the inked star Edwin Diaz to a five-year deal worth $102 million.
The contract, which contains a full no-trade clause, an opt-out clause and a team option for a sixth season, is the largest ever awarded to a reliever in terms of overall dollars and average annual value.
But the Mets striking quickly and decisively while awarding Diaz that huge deal was no surprise. It was expected.
After the season ended, Diaz made no secret of his desire to return to the Mets, and the Mets repeatedly made no secret of their desire to retain him – something that was reiterated by GM. Billy Epler Last week.
Most praise Mets front office and owner Steve Cohen for their quick and decisive move on Diaz, and I’m part of that chorus.
Yes, there is a risk when it comes to giving just over $20 million a year to a reliever for five years.
But the Mets didn’t give that deal to someone who appears to be in danger of regression. They gave it to a 28-year-old (Diaz will turn 29 in March) who is at the peak of his powers and is coming off one of the most dominant seasons a reliever has ever had.
And Diaz’s dominance in 2022 (and, really, since 2020) is confirmed as real by “regular” stats and just about every advanced stat you can find. It’s for real.
Is there any chance that Diaz’s business will dwindle a bit towards the end of his contract and he won’t be the absolute threat on the mound that he has been for the past three seasons? Sure. But the deal was still a no-brainer.
It should also be noted that Diaz will start his season at 33 in the fifth and final guaranteed year of this contract. It’s far from over the hill for a closer one. To look at Kenley Jansenwho was fantastic in his 33 and 34 seasons in 2021 and 2022.
With Diaz back in the fold, the Mets have added their closer back to a bullpen that will be in a lot of flow this offseason, with Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Adam Ottavino, Joely Rodriguezand Trevor Williams among free agents.
The Mets still have a lot of work to do, but closing the deal with Diaz quickly eliminates much of their offseason schedule and frees them up to focus on what’s next. And the sequel won’t include having to find a new closer
So what is Next?
In an article that was published Thursday, I ranked who I think the top 10 free agent targets the Mets should be this offseason. Diaz was No. 1, and I predicted that could mean a five-year, $100 million deal.
Are you following Diaz on my list? Trea Turner at No. 2, Jacob of Grom at No. 3, and Brandon Nimmo at No. 4.
Whether or not the Mets are pursuing Turner (or if he’d even be willing to play regular second base) remains to be seen. But they can’t even pursue it properly for another three days. He will therefore not be the immediate target.
Meanwhile, SNY’s Andy Martino reported in the days leading up to Diaz’s signing that the Mets were prioritizing Diaz and Nimmo over all of their other inside free agents, with Martino adding that it was in no way a a comment on the situation of Grom.
Can Nimmo be inked before the end of the Mets’ exclusive five-day window?
Anything is possible, especially if the Mets are aggressive and come up with a deal that Nimmo’s agent, Scott Boras, feels to be the best Nimmo can get on the open market. But Boras’ clients rarely come close to free agency without testing it, so expect Nimmo to hit the market and the Mets to maintain their desire to bring him back.
Nimmo, as a terrific attacking player who has turned into a more central defender, is in short supply. And there really isn’t a suitable replacement anywhere else in the free agent market. The Mets know it.
What about Grom?
Over the past few weeks, two of deGrom’s former teammates — Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard – discussed his free agency. Wheeler said deGrom told him he was “happy” in New York, and Syndergaard said he would be surprised if deGrom left.
Then last week, Marc Canha says deGrom told him he wanted to come back and that he loved New York.
The above might mean nothing, but it wouldn’t make sense for deGrom to confide in his current and former teammates that he wanted to come back if he didn’t. Of course, I guess you could take the cynical view and say that deGrom wouldn’t want the Mets out of the bidding if he didn’t want to stay. But deGrom wouldn’t have to go through his current and former teammates to get that message across.
Either way, the biggest issue with the Mets pursuing a Grom reunion might be the timing.
The Mets, with just Max Scherzer guaranteed to be part of their starting rotation in 2023, need a backup plan if deGrom leaves. And if deGrom drags this out for months, those backup plans might not be available — Chris Bassit included.
Beyond Nimmo and deGrom are other areas the Mets need to address.
It would be wise for them to sign a DH who can hit both right-handers and left-handers well and do so with power. And it turns out that both Jose Abreu and JD Martinez are free agents.
New York will also need to add external relief aid, and there are some intriguing weapons, including Robert Suarez and old friend Raphael Montero.
For now, the Mets can look forward to Diaz’s return. But while Diaz’s re-signing removes a huge item from their to-do list, that list is still quite long.
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