What’s Next For The Mets As They Reconstruct The Bullpen By Rich Coutinho
The most important developments in spring training are generally the health of the roster that a team spent the off-season building to give the organization the best shot at winning a championship. And in the case of the New York Mets, they spent tons of money to both get new players and retain personnel who played for them last year entering free agency this season.
The biggest of those returning players was Edwin Diaz who set the sport on fire becoming the best closer in baseball and was rewarded with a 5 year $102 million contract making him the highest paid closer in the sport. But this past week while playing in the WBC, Diaz suffered a torn patellar tendon requiring surgery that will force him to miss the 2023 season. This surgery usually has an 8 month rehab process attached to recovery time so the Mets will be without him for the entire year.
When I began to analyze the Met roster in the off-season 2 huge strengths were the depth of the rotation and the bullpen and both of those factors have been affected by this news. You have to realize with the season Diaz had last year, opponents knew trailing the Mets in the 9th inning meant the party was over. Without Diaz, that is no longer the case. David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are talented hurlers but Diaz was off the charts so missing him will have a big impact on that 9th inning.
This could also affect the Met rotation which is already missing Jose Quintana for at least half the season meaning either Tylor Megill or David Peterson would be in the rotation but now they might need one of those arms for bullpen depth. I do believe that David Robertson can be an effective closer as he has saved games in this market as a Yankee and last season both righties and lefties hit below .180 against him while Adam Ottavino could be bumped up to the 8th inning role which he did last year throwing a slider that tantalizes the hitter before disappearing out of the strike zone.
And then there is the possibility of Zack Britton whom the Mets were considering even before Diaz got hurt. He is very familiar with Buck Showalter who managed him in Baltimore and could provide a southpaw presence in the bullpen the Mets badly need. He is coming off seasons lost to injury and struggled last year but he has great stuff and as long as the Mets are patient with him, he could really help the situation.
The bottom line here is there is no way you replace Diaz. You can only hope to load the pen with deep talented arms and hope you can bridge things until the trading deadline when teams are looking to shed payroll and will offer up relief arms. The Mets may also consider arms like Corey Knebel, Will Harris or even former Met Jeurys Familia. And don’t forget the Mets traded for Brooks Raley in the off-season who could become a real find for the pen. I love his stuff and the fact he induces low contact with an assortment of pitches.
Losing Diaz is a huge blow but with crisis comes opportunity and his replacements must think that way. This is a team that won 101 games last year with both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer missing huge parts of the season. But clearly the NL East is now wide open as one of the best players in the league will miss the 2023 season.