I wouldn’t blame the World Baseball Classic for Edwin Diaz’s knee injury, although it’s fair to say no one enthusiastically celebrates a spring training victory, except maybe the Marlins.
Baseball players get hurt in regular games, too. They get hurt getting out of cars, they sometimes get hurt closing car doors or changing their socks.
Baseball is a stressful game, even if it’s usually not a contact sport. Injury lists are crowded. Most of them look like the 6 train at rush hour.
I wouldn’t blame the Mets’ history, either. The Mets were relatively fortunate last year, except for Jacob deGrom, of course, and I’ll guess he’ll hits the injured list a time or two in Texas.
This is a big blow, no doubt about that. But this $364 million team — now $344 million — can withstand this.
This is devastating for Diaz, who is one of the most beloved people in their clubhouse, a consistently positive force with a sweet nature and unbreakable loyalty. This isn’t good for anyone of course, and the freak nature of it, coming as it did in a very brief celebration following a WBC victory for Puerto Rico, is especially galling.
The eight-month estimate isn’t good, either, especially considering October is the eighth month from now, meaning the timetable is just as bad as it needs to be.
But be thankful for small things. Be thankful it isn’t an arm injury, which could dog a pitcher for years and make the Mets regret Diaz’s record $102 million reliever contract.
Be even more thankful the Mets can withstand this. Sure, Diaz is a major loss — assuming initial estimates prove correct and it’s an eight-month injury — and he will be badly missed.
He is one of the game’s three best closers, along with Emmanuel Clase and Josh Hader, and based on his nearly perfect 2022 season, I’d rank him ahead of those other two. He will be missed for the “Narco” song that got Citi Field rocking. But he will be missed mostly for that fastball/slider mix that proved unhittable in his special season of 2022.
Be thankful that the Mets have a better replacement candidate than most. That would be David Robertson, the ex-Yankee David Robertson, who has 157 career saves, including 20 last year (14 for the Cubs, six for the hated Phillies). While he doesn’t quite have the stuff when he was setting up for Mariano Rivera in The Bronx, he does have big stones, which is really the No. 1 prerequisite.
Be thankful, too, that the Mets have the wherewithal to do what they want, and what they need. There aren’t exactly in-their-prime star closers still on the open market. But assume there will be come the deadline. And assume Steve Cohen won’t let the cost stand in their way.
They can also investigate what is out there now. Zack Britton, who once put together a Diaz-like season for Buck Showalter’s Orioles during which he allowed only four earned runs (that’s for a season, not a game!). They could take a flyer on him, and if he’s right, he’d help.
Be thankful, their system is already up to mid-pack, and they certainly have the ammunition to obtain an arm or two (it might take two to replace Diaz). The most obvious potential trade candidate that comes to mind would be Diaz’s brother, Alexis. I know it must be obvious because guys in the office were sending out texts about that possibility within a few hours of Diaz going down with what turned out to be a torn patellar tendon.
Alexis would be a great add, as he’s an extremely talented pitcher (though not as talented as Edwin) who throws extremely hard (though not as hard as Edwin) and strikes out a ton of batters (though not as many as Edwin).
He had a coming out party for Cincinnati last year, and that’s usually when the Reds begin to think about trading guys. This may be a little early even for the Reds since Alexis Diaz just emerged as a rookie in 2022.
The advantage to this, beyond already having uniforms with his name on it, are that he’s not a free agent for five years and would have the chance to combine with his brother for four of them.
Of course, the value of Alexis Diaz is huge. He whiffed 11.7 per nine innings last year, which is near-elite (although not close to his bro’s 17.1), Of course they’d want Brett Baty, Ronnie Mauricio and the Mets’ brand-spanking new scoreboard, and since it’s a small-market team, probably some money, too. In other words, I wouldn’t count on the Mets being able to immediately trade for a great replacement, whether there are family ties or not.
Be thankful especially that the Mets still have a working $344 million payroll, which means they have an outstanding team, led by that other hero of Puerto Rico, Francisco Lindor, plus NL RBI leader Pete Alonso, underrated Starling Marte and a Hall of Fame duo at the top of their rotation, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, former rivals who seem surprisingly friendly now.
This a huge blow, no doubt about it. But please, don’t consider it a season-killer.