Two Guys Talking Mets: Edwin Diaz season-ending injury
The New York Mets learned Thursday they'll be without Edwin Diaz for the entire 2023 season. The closer underwent surgery to repair a complete tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee, a procedure that typically requires eight months to recover from.
Eight months from today is late November. Hence, Diaz, coming off an elite season when he established himself as the top closer in baseball, won't throw a pitch that counts again until 2024.
That the injury took place while celebrating Puerto Rico's 5-2 win against the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Class simply adds to the pain the Mets organization, and their fans, are feeling right now.
Jim Cerny and Mark Rosenman weigh in on the season-ending injury sustained by Diaz.
JC: "Devastating" is the first word that came to mind watching the surreal scene unfold Wednesday night. That word popped up again when Mets general manager Billy Eppler announced Edwin Diaz was through for the season before it even begins.
No, it's not catastrophic. Nor does the absence of Diaz mean the Mets are no longer World Series contenders. But the road to their first title since 1986 is certainly much more difficult. This is a massive gut punch. There's a reason the Mets aggressively signed Diaz at the start of free agency and made him a centerpiece of their offseason strategy.
Even assuming Diaz would not be as dominant this season as he was in 2022, his absence for the entire season -- not a month or two or three -- creates a fairly massive crater. Sure David Robertson has significant closing experience. But the fear factor facing the back end of the Mets bullpen is no longer there for opponents. Hitters feared Diaz. There's no one in that bullpen they'll fear now.
There's also the trickle down affect. Relievers will be asked to take on different roles in many cases and their depth was already a bit shaky after recent injuries.
MR: Miriam Webster defines "devastating" as causing great damage or harm, causing extreme emotional pain. Does the injury to Edwin Diaz cause great damage or harm to the Mets? Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Diaz fan. Even as he struggled in 2019, I defended him and said he has elite stuff. That being said, I still believe the Mets can still thrive in a "Sugar"-free life. So, there's no great damage. This is not devastating.
Here are my reasons. Last season, Diaz had one of the truly great seasons of any Mets reliever, but a deeper dive into the numbers shows that of Edwin's 32 saves, only 34.38% were one-run wins. Diaz's career WAR -- the stat that measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position -- is 1.8. That includes his best seasons with the Seattle Mariners (3.1) and Mets (3.2) . If you are wondering how that compares with Robertson, who is the most likely reliever to be called on to take Edwin's place, the answer is almost identical. Robertson's career WAR averaged over 162 games in 14 MLB seasons is 1.7. Obviously, Robertson will be 38 in April and Diaz turns 29 next week, but the reality is you are what the back of your baseball card says you are. Diaz was due to regress to the norm. Just as Aaron Judge will not hit 62 home runs this season, Diaz was not going to be as dominant as he was last year. Closers very rarely have consecutive great seasons. Since 2014, the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year award has only been won back to back by the same pitcher twice. Furthermore, only one team with the best closer in baseball since 2014 made it to the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 with Kenley Jansen, and they lost to the Houston Astros.
Is this a blow to the Mets ? Yes. Is it devastating? No.
JC: Some valid points there. But Robertson is not Diaz. And Robertson is best suited for the 8th-inning role at this stage. Step into the closer's role for a bit, sure. The entire season? Not so sure.
Simply, I think you're underselling Diaz's value to the Mets. WAR tells part of the story. So does watching batter after batter being overmatched, flailing away at Diaz's wicked slider and overpowering fastball. Did we even mention Diaz is in the middle of his prime seasons in his career?
Anyway, I do agree Robertson already was a valuable offseason addition. Even more so now. I do think they need to scan the market to pick up another closer or set-up man. Zack Britton, if he's healthy and looked good in his showcase for MLB teams Thursday, is the obvious candidate to sign. But maybe they need to consider David Bednar of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was an All-Star last season, got Rookie of the Year votes in 2021 and has the second-best ERA+ of any reliever to throw 100 or more innings the past two seasons. He's also under team control through 2026. It'd cost -- perhaps Ronny Mauricio -- to get him, but could be worth it for a talented reliever with closing experience who could be here four seasons.
MR: Bednar? At the cost of Mauricio ? Listen, Ryan Pressly, Will Smith and Sean Doolittle were closers on recent championship teams, none of whom fit the elite profile. Billy Eppler has done a masterful job of rebuilding the Mets bullpen. Those with short memories may have forgotten that the Mets won 101 games using 10 mediocre pitchers for 108 innings with ERAs ranging from R.J. Alvarez (11.57) to Mychal Givens (4.79). The path to Diaz last season was not necessarily the yellow brick road. Gone are Trevor May, Chasen Shreve and Givens, all who had ERAs around five. You also had Seth Lugo who was only used back to back nine times the entire season.
I think the Mets go out and sign Britton, a guy who Buck Showalter is very familiar with since he was his manager for eight seasons with the Orioles. That includes 2016 when Britton had 46 saves and won the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year award. If you assume Robertson is your closer, Britton is your 8th inning guy, Adam Ottavino is your 7th inning guy and Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and Sam Coonrod (when he comes back from injury) handle the 6th inning, I think most nights you like your chances. Unless a guy like Liam Hendriks or Josh Hader can be had on the cheap, the Mets should sign Britton and count on Buck and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to maximize the pen's potential by utilizing them effectively.
JC: You know who's going to be a guy to watch in the bullpen this season? John Curtiss. He's coming off Tommy John surgery, but was good with the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins before getting hurt and has had a terrific camp so far. He could be a trusted arm in the 6th and 7th innings at some point -- maybe even Opening Day -- this season.
But listen, as upsetting as the Diaz injury is, the Mets are not going away. Buck won't allow any "woe is me" or "same old Mets" to creep into their narrative. An impressive leadership core with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Francisco Lindor will set the tone of no excuses, as well.
The Mets resolve will be tested, no doubt. But this is a veteran team built to make a deep run in the playoffs. Not even a significant injury will change the Mets' collective mindset nor their big goals.
MR: Totally agree with you that this is a test of the Mets resolve. Besides Buck, Lindor, Scherzer and Verlander, the Mets also have Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso, who will play pivotal roles as leaders. Would the odds to win a championship be more favorable with Sugar, most likely yes, but baseball has a strange way of writing it's own narrative. Jimmy, you and I can cite stats and times where this has happened before and none of it matters, because the game always has someone like Al Weiss or Brian Doyle who rises to the occasion. Again does this suck? Yes. I love watching Diaz work, but maybe less Sugar in our life will be ok.
Keep in mind that in 2012, a season after he had 41 saves in 64 appearances for the Yankees, Mariano Rivera sustained a torn ACL and torn meniscus in his right knee after he fell awkwardly to the ground while shagging a fly ball during batting practice before a game against the Kansas City Royals in April. The greatest closer in the game missed the remainder of the season. Rafael Soriano, who had two saves in 2011, replaced Rivera as closer in 2012 and had 42 saves. The Yankees reached the ALCS that season without Rivera, advancing further than they did in 2011 with him (losing in ALDS). Teams that overcome adversity and have the next man up mentality are the teams that win championships.
Photo: Mark Rosenman