Update: Diaz officially has a torn patellar tendon in his right knee and is going to require surgery. He’s expected to miss the entire season, so the Mets will have to get somebody else in the closer role. Diaz signed a five-year, $102 million contract this offseason but will now need to rehab a long-term knee injury in 2023.
New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee during the celebration after Puerto Rico’s WBC victory against the Dominican Republic. He will need surgery and is expected to miss the season.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 16, 2023
Elation turned to heartbreak for Edwin Diaz Thursday. Seconds after Diaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez to clinch Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic win over the Dominican Republic, he crumbled around his teammates in the middle of the team’s celebration. After getting looked at on the field, Diaz was taken off the field in a wheelchair, where he was initially diagnosed with a knee injury.
The injury is believed to be “bad,” according to SNY, but he is still undergoing medical evaluations. If he tore his ACL, he would likely be out for the year, but we’ll update with the details once they are known.
New York Mets 2023 closer
However much time Diaz misses, the Mets will be looking to replace one of the best closers in baseball who netted Cy Young and MVP votes last season. Here are some internal and external options the Mets should consider for save opportunities.
David Roberston (4-3, 2.40 ERA, 20 SV in 63 2/3 innings last season)
When the Mets signed Robertson in the offseason, they did so in the hopes that he’d a set-up piece ahead of Diaz. Now, he might be the team’s most important reliever. Robertston enjoyed a career renaissance last season, as he parlayed a strong start to the season with the Cubs to a trade deadline deal to the Phillies, where he was a key piece in their bullpen during their World Series run. While his fastball velocity is pretty average, he finished last season in the 99th percentile in spin velocity, along with being in the 90th percentile or above in expected slugging, expected batting average and whiff rate. He should slot in as the team’s everyday closer.
Adam Ottavino (6-3, 206 ERA, 3 SV in 65 2/3 innings last season)
Diaz’s setup man last season, Ottavino could also slot in as New York’s closer if the team chooses. Last year, Roberston generated one of the best average exit velocities in the league (84.8 mph), and limited batters to an expected batting average of .190. His fastball - sinker combo is one of the best two-pitch combos in the league, but plays better to righties, which could lead to him spending more time as a middle-inning/setup option.
Drew Smith (3-3, 3.33 ERA, 0 SV in 46 innings last season)
While Smith’s inclusion on this list might seem a little odd considering he has yet to record a save in the Major Leagues, Diaz’s injury just bumps him up the pecking order. Smith was quickly emerging as a trusted late-inning weapon last season before he went on the Injured List in July with a lat injury that kept him out until the end of September. Smith will now probably end up being the first guy out of the bullpen when the Mets are trying to preserve a lead.
Kenley Jansen (5-2, 3.38 ERA, 41 SV in 64 innings for ATL)
While Jansen isn’t the same ace reliever he was at the beginning of his career, he showed some flashes last year with Atlanta, and still sits in the 95th percentile and above in expected ERA and expected batting average. He signed a two-year contract with the Red Sox in the offseason, but should be available at the right price, especially if the Red Sox bottom out like so many are expecting. His market should be pretty hot around the Trade Deadline, and I imagine the Mets will be among the interested teams.
Zack Britton (0-0, 13.50 ERA in 2/3 innings for NYY)
Would Britton be interested in a reunion with Buck Showalter seven years after Showalter left him in the bullpen in the Orioles’ Wild Card loss? We’ll see, as Britton is scheduled to throw a simulated game today, where eight teams are planning on attending. No word on if the Mets are one of those teams.
Britton missed almost all of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery the year prior. He’s only thrown 38 innings over the past three seasons.
Free agent reliever Zack Britton will throw a simulated game on Thursday at UC-Irvine. About eight teams are expected to be in attendance.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 16, 2023
Fantasy baseball impact
Robertson is now a top-10 reliever. Last year, he was able to be scooped up in the late rounds — if he was drafted at all. Now, he’s probably become a top-10 reliever, just due to the volume of close games the Mets play in. While he doesn’t deserve to be drafted somewhere in the 40s like Diaz does, he’ll serve as a great pivot option for anyone who isn’t able to grab one of the top options.
Ottavino and Smith are worth keeping an eye on, but neither are draft-worthy currently.
As the top fantasy reliever, Diaz’s impact creates an immediate vacuum at the top of the reliever hierarchy. Prior to Diaz’s injury, he formed a top reliever triad with Emmanuel Clase and Josh Hader. Now, Clase and Hader stand alone. While I still think both relievers are worthy to be drafted in the 40’s, I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking Clase with a pick in the late 30’s, especially now that there’s one less team-changing reliever off the board.