Until Wednesday, the Mets had avoided the worst. Throwing depth had taken a few hits in the past two weeks, but the Mets were still in a position to withstand losses. But losing the best closer in baseball is another story.
Edwin Díaz injured his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in Miami and will be out for the season.
The 28-year-old right-hander will undergo surgery Thursday afternoon in Florida and will be sidelined for approximately eight months. It’s a huge blow to the bullpen and to the Mets, who signed him to a record five-year, $102 million deal in November, and to the fans who loved the trumpets on his farewell song, “Narcos.”
( Despite Mets closer Edwin Diaz’s knee injury, players are quick to say not to blame the World Baseball Classic )
In the internet age, almost nothing goes without outrage. And while the talk about the WBC will certainly continue, the Mets have to figure out what comes next.
In assembling the bullpen, general manager Billy Eppler prioritized pitchers who have experience throwing high-powered innings and who have a track record of success in high-powered situations.
Inside options that fit that bill are righties David Robertson and Drew Smith and lefty Brooks Raley. Robertson was the closer for the Yankees after the retirement of Mariano Rivera in 2014 and then spent the next two years in the same role for the Chicago White Sox. The veteran reliever converted 20 saves last season with the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. The 37-year-old says he can pitch any inning and is confident in his ability to get outs in almost any situation.
Smith became Diaz’s primary setup man last season, pitching in 16 save situations and recording 14 catches. Traded to the Mets for first baseman Lucas Duda in 2017, the 29-year-old Texan has been a workhorse for the Mets the past two seasons, making 31 appearances in 2021 and 44 in 2022.
Raley retired from the WBC with a hamstring injury, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. He has converted nine saves in his career.
The Mets could opt to sign a free agent reliever and there are currently four with experience working the ninth inning: Zack Britton, Ken Giles, Will Harris and Corey Knebel. Britton, a former Yankees reliever who was the closer for the Baltimore Orioles and current Mets manager Buck Showalter, recently pitched for the scouts and the Mets attended.
( José Quintana shut down at least until July after opting for rib bone graft surgery )
The club opted not to sign the 35-year-old left-hander but Diaz’s absence could force them to take another look.