What Edwin Díaz’s devastating knee injury means for the Mets’ 2023 ambitions

The reality of Edwin Diaz’s shocking and bizarre knee injury is still coming to light. Baseball’s top player, whose 2022 season with the New York Mets is considered one of the best assist seasons in MLB history, is likely to miss the field in 2023 with a torn patella. tendon during celebrations for Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday at the World Baseball Classic.

It was a disgusting fall after Diaz completed an exciting, energetic game that took his team to the WBC quarter-finals and eliminated the beloved DR team. The most immediate conclusion is simply the frustration of Diaz, his visibly crushed Puerto Rican teammates, and the Mets fans who will have to make do without them. Delusional signature Diaz opening music for the first season of a five-year, $102 million contract he signed to stay in New York.

And now the Mets will have to drag themselves forward without a key part of the team and the club. With a massive payroll and a stellar line-up, the World Series undoubtedly remains their target. But Diaz’s injury raises some big questions even before opening day arrives.

How much will Edwin Diaz injury hurt the Mets?

You can answer that question by looking at the detailed 2023 predictions or the broad narrative of the Mets’ ambition to build a mammoth force under team owner Steve Cohen. The essence is the same: a lot.

Let’s start with granular. A week ago, FanGraphs Depth Chart Predictions saw the Mets’ bullpen as the third-best pre-season MLB team behind the Atlanta Braves and mostly tied with the San Diego Padres. Diaz, unsurprisingly, carried much of that expected value. He was expected to hit a 2.36 ERA in about 60 innings, hitting over 40% of the batters he faced. This is a wonderful phrase for an inherently conservative projection system, but it was well deserved. After a rocky entry into the Mets in 2019, Diaz shone with a 2.27 ERA, 70 saves and an MLB-leading 42.7% strikeout rate over 150 1/3 innings.

Without him, The Mets’ bullpen now ranks 20th on the FanGraphs depth charts.sandwiched between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. Now, it should be noted that there are other powers in the game besides Diaz. The Mets’ bullpen depth options are also limited by other injuries, most notably Jose Quintana in the starting rotation.

Last year, even with Diaz’s heroism, the Mets had the 11th-best ERA-MLB park-adjusted bullpen. It’s entirely possible to make the playoffs with a poor quality bullpen — the Phillies finished 22nd last season — but no one has a good, fun plan.

When zoomed out, the damage to the Mets’ grand ambitions is less quantifiable, but arguably more devastating. Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler built a team with 101 wins last year and are upping the ante in 2023 with the biggest payday in baseball history. On the one hand, it shows a fairly obvious commitment to winning that looks set to last through the remaining four years of Diaz’s contract, when he can hopefully serve as or nearly as well as he has in the past three seasons. On the other hand, the Metz was actually built to peak in 2023 and 2024.

Instead of two guaranteed losses in the World Series with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Diaz winning in the deciding innings, the Mets were effectively reduced to one guaranteed year with everyone on contract. Scherzer will become a free agent after 2024. Verlander has an option for 2025. And both are already extreme exceptions on the aging front. Cohen can (and likely will) go out and find stars to sign when they leave, retire or decline, but it’s often just not possible to find good players like Scherzer and Verlander.

The Mets had a clear window into 2023 and 2024, built on impressive but aging starting pitchers, the closed roster and Diaz. The rotation was considered the biggest risk (maybe it is), but Diaz’s injury immediately reduced the entire venture to a less frightening size for other NL contenders.

What would a bullpen look like without Diaz?

It’s been less than 24 hours since Diaz’s leg buckled in Miami, so manager Buck Showalter and the Mets have understandably not detailed their entire plan for dealing with the loss. But we can start making some assumptions.

Adam Ottavino and David Robertson – both 37 years old, by the way – are the best, most proven hands in the bullpen right now. They were going to be front men, and now they’re taking on both the setup and more intimate roles between themselves. Both have been impressive in 2022, but Ottavino’s underlying numbers have been a bit more encouraging. However, this does not necessarily mean that he will receive saves. Robertson spent years as a primary closer, including out of town for the Yankees. Whether because Ottavino never took on the burden consistently, or because Showalter simply preferred to use it at the moment of greatest leverage – as he sometimes did even with Diaz – a right-hander throwing a slider can be an ace of help, but no closer.

However, the difference between a controlled fall and a bullpen disaster is likely to be determined from the depth chart below. The biggest question is how much the Mets will need young starting candidates David Peterson and Tylor Megill. Each showed promise and could help stabilize the bullpen, but they may be even more needed for the rotation as Quintana has been out for months now and the two aces are approaching 40 or higher. Megill famously started on opening day in 2022 when Jacob de Grom failed to take the ball.

Beyond that, there are a few new options to sort through, and that score is suddenly more urgent. Eppler added Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Brooks Reilly during the offseason and his role pieces to take on even more pressure. It rose in 2022 after drawing on your slider as a step.

Other new faces include Eliezer Hernandez and Jeff Brigham, both acquired in a trade from the Marlins, and John Curtiss, a tall right-hander who also discovered his effectiveness with the Rays. Drew Smith, a returning Mets player who has stepped forward in the past two seasons but struggled to contain homers, will also be asked to take the ball at slightly more critical moments.

Can the Mets make moves to get more bullpen help?

If outside help arrives, the first name on the radar is Zach Britton, a former associate of Showalter’s in Baltimore. He’s actually younger than Ottavino, Robertson, and just about every other Mets pitcher you’ve heard of, but he’s only thrown 19 pitches in the last two seasons. However, he is reportedly challenging teams this week for jobs in the big leagues.

Otherwise, a flashy move for help in the bullpen seems unlikely before the summer.

In the meantime, the best thing the Mets can do, as unsatisfactory as it sounds, is to play well enough with the rest of their stars that losing Diaz doesn’t feel so bad. The 2022 Mets were 21-15 in one-run games, which was good but didn’t match their overall results like some bullpen-focused winners did.

The 2023 Mets will have more than enough talent to compete for the NL East – and pennant – with mere mortals dropping ninth. It’s just that there’s far less room for error now than there was a few days ago, and there are no more pipes to drown out the doubts that always roam Queens.


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