The New York Mets have a big decision regarding Edwin Diaz this offseason, but they must avoid making a panic move despite his struggles.
There’s no question it’s been an absolute disaster of a season for New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz. Acquired to stabilize the back end of the bullpen, he has instead completely imploded, pitching to a 5.88 ERA with seven blown saves after putting up a 1.96 ERA with an American League-leading 57 saves with the Seattle Mariners last season.
While it would be easy to say that he can’t handle New York and the team should deal him, that would be incredibly shortsighted. In fact, there are many reasons that the team should not deal Diaz, and should instead ride this storm out.
Prior to coming to the Mets, Diaz had a 2.64 ERA in three seasons in Seattle. He gave up 61 runs in a Mariners uniform over three seasons. He’s given up 34 so far this season with a month left in 2019. However, there are explanations for his struggles, and reason to believe that he will turn it around.
One big issue for Diaz has been the long ball, which has burned him at a rate of 2.4 HR/9 this season, a full HR/9 worse than his previous high. That number should reduce next season, as such a high jump is likely unsustainable. Especially when you consider that Diaz has a slider that sits in the low 90s and a fastball that touches 101 m.p.h.
On top of that, Diaz has been struck by staggering bad luck this season. His BABIP is a staggering .398 this season, an even .100 higher than the MLB average of .298. Last season he sat a .281 while having a season that earned him down-ballot Cy Young votes.
One season with a BABIP that much worse than league average is rare. Two is next to impossible, especially when you consider just how good Diaz’s pitches are. While there is a skill to inducing soft contact and an elevated BABIP can be a concern, a jump that large from one season to the next is a sign that luck is having a huge impact on his numbers.
Diaz’s strikeout rate also suggests that he will bounce back. He has actually slightly elevated his strikeout rate from last season, getting 15.4 K/9 a season after getting 15.2. He’s still missing bats, he’s just getting absolutely lit up when he isn’t missing them. That is unlikely to continue next season.
Diaz’s underlying numbers suggest that he will see a bounce-back season, as does his age. Diaz is 25 years old, the same age that New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera was when he made his MLB debut and has had a successful career outside of this season.
Were Diaz 33 years old and had this drop there would be reason for concern, but Diaz is only entering his athletic prime. There’s no reason to believe his pitches have gotten worse because of age decreasing his ability to throw them.
A final consideration is the sunk cost that the team spent towards acquiring Diaz. They gave up Justin Dunn and Jared Kelenic, both solid prospects, and took on Robinson Cano’s contract, to get Diaz. Cutting bait after one season would be giving up far too soon on a piece you paid a large price to add.
There is no way that the Mets can get equal value for Diaz in a trade. They can, however, get value out of Diaz by keeping him and expecting his numbers to return to where they were.