The New York Mets suffered a major blow on Wednesday night when Edwin Díaz suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee during Puerto Rico’s infield celebration after defeating the Dominican Republic in a win-or-go game. home. Classic World Baseball game. Diaz will undergo surgery and is expected to miss eight monthslikely to end his season.
“We won’t be updating Edwin’s schedule for a while,” Mets GM Billy Eppler said Newsday and Fox Sports on Thursday. “… To no one’s surprise, he’s in a very good mood. Last night, when he spoke to me, he said, “Don’t worry. This will be fine.”
The injury is an accident that happened when Díaz appeared to be doing nothing more than jumping up and down with his teammates. The celebration was not aggressive. There was no dog or people flying around or anything like that. Sometimes unfortunate things happen and Díaz’s injury is an unfortunate thing that happened.
While Díaz’s injury is more significant, it’s not the only injury the Mets have suffered in the last week. Lefty José Quintana will be out until midseason with a rib injury and depth relievers Sam Coonrod (lat strain) and Bryce Montes de Oca (elbow stress reaction) sat out spring training games with injuries recently.
Here’s what New York’s Opening Day bullpen could look like after Diaz’s injury:
One of Taylor McGill and David Peterson will slide into the rotation to replace Quintana, and the other could go into the bullpen. Other candidates include lefty Joey Lucchesi, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. Right Jeff Brigham, Stephen Ridings and Jimmy Yacabonis. and Buck Showalter’s favorite lefty TJ McFarland.
Opening Day is two weeks away, and of course Eppler will scour the market to see if any free agents or trades make sense to help replace Díaz, not that Díaz can be replaced. He is the best reliever in the sport and by definition that makes him irreplaceable. All you can do is try to replace as much of the lost production and depth as possible.
With that in mind, here’s a look at New York’s options after Díaz’s knee injury.
1. Stick with what they have
Always the most likely course of action in late spring. Free agent and trade options are limited, while agents and potential trade partners smell blood in the water. They know the Mets just lost Diaz to a serious injury and will raise their asking prices accordingly. The injury is unfortunate, but no one feels sorry for Diaz and the Mets.
Ottavino, Raley and Robertson are a solid late-game trio — Robertson is proven in New York given his time with the Yankees — and Curtiss has impressed this spring as he returns from Tommy John surgery. However, relievers are unpredictable, even the great ones. Just look at Diaz. He wasn’t exactly a reliable, lockdown closer in his early years with the Mets.
Given what’s available now (which is to say, not much) and the general instability of the bullpen, it would make sense for Eppler & Co. to use that bullpen in the season and see how things go before making changes. Who knows, maybe they have a hidden gem in Curtiss or the next nail reliever in Ridings hard rims. The Mets could take a few weeks to see what they have and then reevaluate.
2. Sign a free agent
One name immediately comes to mind: Zack Britton. Britton remains unsigned, and he and Showalter know each other well from their years with the Baltimore Orioles. Now 35, Britton has missed most of 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He returned late in the season, walked six of the nine batters he faced, then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
The Mets are expected to attend Britton’s showcase on Thursday, According to New York Post, and have been linked to him for weeks given Showalter’s connection. Diaz’s injury could increase their interest. How much Britton can help after Tommy John surgery and a shoulder injury isn’t clear, but that’s why he’s holding the showcase. To show teams he’s ready to go.
Other free agent players include relievers Archie Bradley, Ken Giles and Corey Knebel. Mike Minor has started in recent years but has bullpen experience, and Chris Archer could be a sneaky good starter-to-reliever candidate given his interesting slider attributes and his first time through the order in 2022.
First time through the composition
Britton is the biggest name available and the Showalter connection can’t be ignored. Others, like Bradley, Giles and Knebel have face value, though all are coming off injuries like Britton. After that, you move on to No. 6 starting types and Triple-A depth arms. If you need an out, Jurickson Profar is available. If you need a reliever, free agency has much less to offer.
3. Try to find a business partner
Trading for pitching help isn’t easy in spring training. No one wants to give up their depth on the mound before the regular season even starts. For Eppler and the Mets, their best hope of landing a reliever in a spring trade likely involves a rebuilding team with a tight end or bullpen making good money. Some potential trade candidates and their 2023 salaries:
The ideal trade addition would be Cincinnati Reds righty Alexis Díaz, Edwin’s younger brother, though he would need a significant prospect package given his age (26), performance (3.1 WAR in 2022) and control team (five more years). And hey, it might be worth it. The Mets are trying to win the World Series, and Díaz would be a major boost both this year and beyond.
The Mets could — and should — call and inquire about other obvious trade targets, such as Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar and Texas Rangers righty José Leclerc, though those talks may have to wait until the middle. of the season. Prospective free agents like Reynaldo López (Chicago White Sox) and former Met Trevor May (Oakland Athletics) are trade deadlines.
The thing is, trading for pitching — any kind of pitching — isn’t easy in March. Teams are reluctant to give up their extra weapons because they know they will need them during the season. Eppler will no doubt be working on the phones over the next couple of weeks, and beyond that as well. Whether he finds something worthwhile before Opening Day is another matter.
4. Wait for exceptions
Article XX(B) free agents — these are players with at least six years of experience — who sign a minor league contract automatically receive an opt-out clause five days before Opening Day. This allows those players to become free agents and seek opportunities elsewhere instead of going to Triple-A if they are told they will not make the MLB roster.
Every spring, some of these players choose to leave and stick elsewhere. Steve Cishek was in camp with the Houston Astros in 2021, then left and signed with the Los Angeles Angels before Opening Day, for example. Here are the notable Article XX(B) veterans releasing free agents on minor league deals this spring:
Hembree spent a few weeks with the Mets in 2021, and while he was terrible with the Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers last year (19 runs in 22 innings), he has upped the ante on his fastball this spring, striking out six in 5 2/ 3 innings. Tampa has a loaded bullpen, making Hembree a candidate to opt out later this spring. It’s about as good as you’ll find on the clearance market.
Díaz’s knee injury is devastating, there’s no doubt about that, but the mistake to make right after is to make a panic move. Eppler knows this. It makes sense to give Britton a low-cost contract or wait and see what the opt-out market holds. Trading for Díaz (Alexis, not Edwin) would be ideal, though expect the Reds to command a high price. The Mets have enough depth that they can go into the season and see what it is, and if they need to make changes in a few weeks, they will.