The dust had barely settled on the Houston Astros winning the 2022 World Series before the New York Mets took the first big step of the offseason, signing the elite closer Edwin Diaz to a record-breaking, five-year, $102 million deal last Sunday.
It was a heartbreaking move that sent seismic waves through the baseball world, while quickly proving that owner Steve Cohen and the Mets were serious this winter. Diaz has always been considered a top priority heading into the offseason and the front office wasted no time in locking down arguably one of the most important players on the roster.
Diaz will receive $20.4 million per year, surpassing the $18 million that Liam Hendricks currently does with the Chicago White Sox. It’s the largest and richest contract ever signed by a reliever in baseball and shows the Mets are all in when it comes to competing for a championship in 2023 and beyond.
There’s no doubt that Diaz’s new contract is historic in every aspect, but there are some, like Athletic’s Keith Law, who wonder if the Mets will live to regret bringing their superstar closer to a gigantic salary. So with that in mind, MMO challenged two of their writers to argue for and against Diaz’s record-breaking new contract.
Andrew Steele-Davis: Yes to Diaz’s contract
Greatness comes at a price, and the Mets knew that if they were going to hire the best players in baseball right now, then they would have to find the big bucks to do it. After what has been a stellar 2022 season, Diaz was still going to demand a monster contract and he earned every penny.
Like a quarterback in football, a point guard in basketball, or a goaltender in hockey, the reliever has a certain prestige and importance in baseball, and Diaz has established himself as the best of the best thanks to a dominance in 2022. He pitched to a stellar 1.31 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 32 saves in 62 innings pitched, to go along with a 0.83 WHIP.
Diaz’s underlying metrics were also incredibly impressive. By baseball scholar, the right-hander ranked in the 100th percentile in xBA, takedown rate, xSLG, xERA/xwOBA, and smell rate last year. He was also in the 99th percentile in fastball speed, 97th percentile in chase rate, 96th percentile in average out speed, and 93rd percentile in barrel percentage.
What was perhaps most impressive about Diaz’s remarkable year was how he perfected his greatest weapon – the slider. What was already a dirty pitch turned into an unstoppable force as the veteran leaned on the pitch 58.1% of the time in 2022. He had a 54.7% odor rate and a 54.3 percent strikeout — both marks ranking second in the majors — and batters could only hit .114/.134/.154 against the field.
It wasn’t just last year that Diaz excelled. While pitching at the peak of his powers in 2022, the elite stopping arm has delivered the goods to the Mets over an extended period now. In 150.1 innings over the past three seasons, Diaz is posting a 2.27 ERA, 1.78 FIP and 0.99 WHIP, while striking out 257 batters. The fact that the two-time All-Star did the job at a high level on a large sample should factor into the discussion of whether his new contract was a bargain.
Of course, not everything in life is without risk and this is especially the case in professional sports. Franchises invest heavily in players without ever really knowing what might happen tomorrow, and the story of relievers being awarded monster contracts is not a good one. However, history is here to be rewritten and Diaz is a special, special talent. He’s going to work to keep honing his craft and improving, and the elite stoppage guys should be paid big bucks considering how important they are.
After all, Diaz will be fundamental in any run the Mets make to win the World Series and, at 28, he still has many of his best years in the tank. Given the trajectory the right-hander is on, this deal could actually end up looking like a bargain by the time it’s completed and the front office will have to lock in one of its top performers. Greatness comes at a price, and the Mets won’t regret giving Diaz that contract if they end up getting a World Series out of it.
Jack Markowski – No to Diaz’s contract
I hate to be a depresser here, but there are some concerns to raise regarding Edwin Díaz’s contract. The main point in this regard, which has merit, is the track record of long-term, big-budget respite contracts that don’t age particularly well. Wade Davis is a recent example, who signed a three-year, $52 million contract with the Colorado Rockies ahead of the 2018 season and only produced a 0.2 fWAR and 6.49 ERA on that period.
Another is Will Smith, who signed a three-year, $40 million contract ahead of the 2020 season with the Atlanta Braves and recorded -0.3 fWAR during that time. From there, it’s worth considering whether spending a significant amount of money on a loved one is beneficial solely based on usage and overall value.
Díaz is the best close in the game, but he’s only used in just over a third of the team’s games, meaning his overall impact isn’t too great from game to game. other. Re-signing Díaz is a decision the Mets had to make, and it always made more sense for both parties to come together this offseason. Díaz’s contract has a chance to age much better than similar contracts of the past, but there are several reasons to be a little tired of how it all ended up unfolding.