Position: Relief Pitcher
Age: March 22, 1994 (24)
Traditional Stats: 0-4, 1.96 ERA, 73 G, 57 SV, 73.1 IP, 0.791 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 15.2 K/9
Advanced Stats: 3.2 bWAR, 3.5 fWAR, 208 ERA+, 1.61 FIP
Arbitration Eligible: 2020
Free Agent: 2023
The interesting thing about rebuilding teams is players you never thought would shake loose do eventually shake loose. Last year, the Marlins insisted they were going to hold onto Christian Yelich all the way up until he was traded to the Brewers. Heading into the 2015 season, the rebuilding Braves were not going to trade Craig Kimbrel all the way up until he was traded to the Padres.
So far, the Mariners have sold off Mike Zunino and James Paxton as they begin their rebuild. At the moment, they are insisting they are holding onto certain players like their 24 year old closer. You could understand the impulse to keep a cost controlled closer who finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting and was a first time All-Star. Then again, like with the Braves, the Mariners should become more reasonable and realize a closer does not do much good for what should be a 90+ loss team.
If the Mariners do make Diaz available, he instantly becomes the top reliever on the trade market. As noted by Mike Petrillo of MLB.com, Diaz had the seventh best strikeout rate all-time, and his expected wOBA was the third best in all of baseball last year.
The reasons for the success is Diaz has incredible stuff. His fastball averages 97.1 MPH with him topping 100 MPH on multiple occasions. His slider is just under 90 MPH. Both are nearly unhittable as is Diaz. What make him all the more potent is his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball in the ballpark.
Now, his stats may seem like an outlier from his 2017 season. However, he put up similar stats and peripherals in his rookie season. This could reasonably lead us to believe this is the pitcher he is, which would mean he is arguably the best reliever in the game. Considering his age, he could even improve from here, which is a scary proposition.
If not, and he’s really what he was in 2016, he’s still a great reliever. No matter what he is, Diaz is a closer every team should covet. The issue for teams is just how much it is going to cost to obtain him.
Why the Mets Should Obtain Him
The Mets have just one reliable reliever in their bullpen, which is troubling when you consider Seth Lugo does have a UCL issue.There’s also the consideration they need Lugo in the rotation instead of the bullpen. To that extent, the Mets have to completely overhaul their bullpen if they want any chance to compete next season.
There are a number of relievers on the free agent market who could fill those needs. However, those relievers are going to be expensive thereby limiting the Mets ability to spend their resources to improve the team’s other needs. Moreover, like we saw with Anthony Swarzak, older relievers may be more susceptible to regression.
With Diaz, the Mets would have a closer for not just next year but for the next four years. This means they will have the closer under cost control the same time they will have their pitching staff under cost control. If the price is right, this is a no-brainer.
Why the Mets Should Not Obtain Him
At the trade deadline last year, the Indians traded away Francisco Mejia, who is rated as the 24th best prospect in baseball by BaseballAmerica. Now the Indians also obtained Adam Cimber, but the point remains that an All Star closer with multiple years of control is going to cost a big prospect.
From the Mets perspective, this means they are going to have to part with either Andres Gimenez or Peter Alonso to get Diaz. While that may be a fair price, it is a lot to give up in order to improve the team. While Diaz is a definite improvement, the Mets are more than just a closer away. With that in mind, you can hardly afford to part with building blocks for the future to take the Mets from a 70 win to a 90 win team.
The Mets need to decide what they are actually doing this offseason. We have heard the Mets were going to be all-in to win in 2019 to only hear later the team was not going to be in on Manny Machado. While the Mets are purporting to be lead by a dominant starting rotation, there are rumors the Mets are shopping Noah Syndergaard this offseason.
If the Mets truly want to be all-in, go get Diaz. In fact, make a real blockbuster and try to pry Mitch Haniger with him even if this means you have to take back a bad contract like Robinson Cano. That’s what big market teams do when they are all-in to win a World Series. The prospect cost is going to sting less when you are a World Series contender.
Mostly, the Mets need to pick a lane and pursue it. They’re either going for it, or they’re not. If they are, and they’re adding other big pieces in addition to Diaz, do it. Make this deal and bring home the first World Series since 1986. If not, they just need to finally be honest as to what they are.