Mets are limited in their Edwin Diaz relief options


Share post:

PORT ST. LUCIE — Mets general manager Billy Eppler made his first call to the Cubs about David Robertson last April. The reliever wasn’t traded until the actual deadline, Aug. 2, to the NL East, though he went to the Phillies.

It is not that relievers aren’t traded at this time of year, as the Mets strategize how best to weather the likely season-long loss of closer Edwin Diaz. But the type of bullpen arms moved now historically fall more into the Nick Vincent or Matt Wisler category.

The Twins did trade their closer, Taylor Rogers, to the Padres on the brink of last season. But that was after most of the usual winter work was wiped away by the owners’ lockout and also after the Mets’ last-second rejection of a trade that San Diego preferred (Dom Smith going west for Eric Hosmer, Emilio Pagan, Chris Paddack and cash).

As the 2015 season began, the Braves traded elite closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres. But that was out of desperation to dump salary (Atlanta tied B.J. Upton, who was owed $46.35 million, to the deal) in combination with the star-collecting fervor of A.J. Preller in his first year as San Diego’s GM.

So even if the Mets were open to a big move right now (and they don’t seem to be), it would not be easy to enact because, as a few executives I asked noted, no club wants to send a message of surrender to its fan base before a game has been played by trading its closer.

Some clubs are delusional. The Rockies, for example, have never won a division title, but annually lead the league in thinking they are better than they are, especially to start a season. Thus, they are not going to rush to trade closer Daniel Bard.

The Mets already know their Edwin Diaz fate, but there’s little they can do externally about it.

If the Mets are too overt in their overtures, it will smell like desperation and, then, as one NL executive summarized, “Forget about paying $1.25 for $1 [in a trade)], it will cost them $3.”

What also should not be dismissed is the analytic leanings of the Mets front office. The numbers show that it is hard to score multiple runs in an inning, so teams like the Mets think more relievers can handle even late-inning responsibility than is generally perceived.

The MLB save percentage last year was 77.1 percent when a team led by one run going to the ninth inning, 92.5 when leading by two and 95.9 when leading by three. Do the Mets believe a combination of Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley can equal or outdo those percentages in Diaz’s absence? Probably.

But imagine what April would feel like in New York if the Mets were blowing leads and the rest of a strong roster could not compensate for that. It could become the snowflake turning into an avalanche of bad mojo.

Of course, there’s no guarantee an outside addition would change the results markedly. Remember, it took Diaz a few years to find comfort closing in New York. Beware of obtaining a reliever from a team not used to performing in big spots: Many are not Clay Holmes, instantly able to flip from anonymity in Pittsburgh to excel in every-pitch-matters New York. Bard, Pittsburgh’s David Bednar and Edwin Diaz’s brother, Alexis, each failed in their biggest World Baseball Classic moment going into the final on Tuesday night. That’s small sample size for sure, but you can also argue those were the biggest moments yet in their careers. Ottavino excelled pitching between Bard and Bednar for the U.S. in the semifinals.

Mets relief pitcher Brooks Raley throws in the third inning of a Spring Training game
Brooks Raley can likely help fill the void left by Diaz’s injury.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post

 Mets relief pitcher David Robertson (30) throws a pitch
David Robertson has experience as a closer.

For now, Eppler most likely would try to improve the depth around Robertson, Ottavino and Raley. He had liked a five-man late-inning unit, with that trio plus Diaz and Drew Smith, because it all but assured the availability of at least one or two daily. That unit is down to a quartet, though the Mets have liked what they have seen this spring from John Curtiss.

Yes, the Mets were at Zack Britton’s recent showcase. But out of due diligence the Mets generally attend showcases, as they also did for Chris Archer and Ken Giles. This was an offseason in which teams not only spent, but also all felt they could upgrade their bullpens. Yet Britton, Giles and Corey Knebel remain unemployed — and not just because of the Mets.

The Mets undoubtedly are monitoring out-of-option arms they favor to see if clubs might expose them to waivers or make a small trade. I doubt the Mets would do this, but I can’t resist playing 31st GM so … if they felt Brett Baty is ready to play every day at third, could they use Eduardo Escobar ($10 million) for mainly a salary-for-salary swap?

These are all made up and might have to include others, but, for example, would Seattle favor Escobar as a bench piece over Tommy La Stella and trade Chris Flexen ($8 million), whose depth starter presence might enable the Mets to put Tylor Megill’s power arm in the pen? Is lefty Drew Pomeranz ($8 million and didn’t pitch last year after Tommy John surgery) healthy enough and would the Padres favor Escobar over Rougned Odor as a reserve?

It’s not a big relief move. But, at this time of year, those are rare.

Source link

Related articles

When to expect next ESPN layoffs — and who’s most at risk

ESPN talent layoffs are expected toward the end of June, The Post has learned. A source said the...

Giants’ Adoree’ Jackson ‘excited’ to mentor rookie Deonte Banks

When Adoree’ Jackson arrived to the Titans in 2017 as a first-round draft pick, he had Logan...

Red Sox’s brutal defensive blunder leads to Rays Little League home run

Little League home runs are always funny to watch … when it comes on a recreational field. The Boston...

Mets’ Tommy Pham blasts two homers, makes miscue in rare start

Tommy Pham hit a pair of homers that helped the Mets overcome an early four-run deficit, but...