The Mets kicked off the offseason in spectacular fashion, closing superstar Edwin Diaz to a record five-year, $102 million deal. The deal comes with a $12m signing bonus, a full no-trade clause and a team option for a sixth year, which could bring the total value of the deal at $122 million. Diaz will also have the option to opt out of the contract after season three, when he approaches his 32-year-old season. He removes one of the top free agents on the board before free agency opens Thursday afternoon.
Diaz, 28, was out for the Mets in 2022, throwing 62 innings of 1.30 ERA ball. He struck out more than half of the batters he faced, while walking only 7.7% of the batters. He allowed just three home runs all year and converted 32 of 35 save chances. His fastball/slider combo has always been a nightmare for opposition hitters, but he’s relied on his slider much more in 2022, going for it 58.1% of the time versus his typical use in the mid-30s. , and the results were astounding. He led the majors in reliever ERA, strikeout rate, and reliever fWAR. The withdrawal rate was so dominant that it was tied Craig KimbrelThe 2012 effort for the third-best qualified reliever strikeout rate in MLB history. Only Aroldis ChapmanThe 52.5% mark in 2014 is better, but that clashed with an 11.9% walk rate, well above Diaz’s rate this season.
Given Diaz’s historic platform season, it’s no surprise he signed a record-breaking contract for a reliever. It smashes Chapman’s previous mark of five years, $86 million signed with the Yankees in 2016, and it also gives Diaz the highest average annual value for a reliever, with his mark of $20.4 million beating comfortably. Liam Hendricks‘ previous mark of 18 million.
Although Diaz has established himself as the best reliever in baseball this season, the deal comes with a degree of risk, especially since Diaz’s career as a whole has been something of a rollercoaster. After being drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Mariners, Diaz became the power arm of the Seattle bullpen. He averaged a 2.64 ERA over three seasons at Seattle, highlighted by a phenomenal 2018 season that saw him make 57 saves, while posting a 1.96 ERA and finishing eighth in AL voting. Cy Young. That prompted the Mets to acquire him this offseason, sending their own top prospect Jarred Kelenic and assuming most of Robinson Canois a heavy contract to have it. This off-season blockbuster also featured Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista.
The deal initially seemed shocking, as Diaz tossed a 5.59 ERA in his first season at Queens. He maintained his strong strikeout rates, but struggled powerfully with the longball, giving up an average of 2.3 homers every nine innings. He could have been a no-bid outside candidate that winter, but the Mets stuck with him and their decision paid off immediately. Diaz bounced back in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, healing his long ball issues and posting the best strikeout rate at this point in his career. He saw a slight decline in 2021, posting a 3.45 ERA, although leading indicators such as FIP suggest his performance was broadly in line with his previous season (2.48 in 21 vs 2.18 in 20).
Diaz has become a legitimate sports superstar in Queens. His performance speaks for itself, but his trumpet entrance at Citi Field captivated all sports and sparked a number of other theatrical entrances that seek to emulate the atmosphere created by Diaz’s entrance. While no reliever is a sure thing, Diaz is the best in the game at what he does, and Mets owner Steve Cohen has shown a willingness to make money with no problem when he does. is about signing, or in this case re-signing, the best talent in the game.
It’s the first step in what could be a busy offseason for the Mets. Their rotation and enclosure will have significant addressing. Diaz was to join Tommy Hunter, Adam Ottavino, Joely Rodriguez, Trevor May, Seth Lugo and Trevor Williams as lifters directed to free will, while Mychal Givens has a mutual option for next year, which means they have to effectively rebuild their paddock entirely. Diaz is a major part of that, but the Mets will still be very active in the relief market this winter. On the spin side of things, Chris Bassit has already declined his mutual option and will be a free agent, while Jacob of Grom is expected to confirm that he will go for free agency in the coming days. Taijuan walker has a $7.5 million player option with a $3 million buyout, while Carlos Carrasco has a $14 million club option with a $3 million buyout, so the team could be looking for a number of starters as well. It’s not even getting into the offensive side of the ball, where the Mets will lose outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Tyler Naquin.
It’s shaping up to be another busy offseason, and one that could see the Mets’ payroll soar to even greater heights. Cohen never seemed too concerned about the payroll, but RosterResource has the Mets’ payroll at $251 million for 2023 currently, though that number doesn’t assume deGrom will step down. Even so, the team spent $282 million in 2022 on player payrolls, and there’s certainly a path for them to spend that or more in 2023 if they really want to compete in the tough NL East.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale was the first to report that Diaz and the Mets were close to an agreement. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report that the deal had been completed and included an opt-out, opt-out, and no-trade clause. Newsday’s Tim Healey had financial details about the option year and the timing of the opt-out. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had details on the signing bonus.