For Edwin Diazthe Mets, and every Mets fan, a nightmare played out in real life on Wednesday night after Diaz shut the door to secure Puerto Rico’s exhilarating win over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
The sight of Diaz sitting on the field, attempting to walk but failing, being carried off, and ultimately being taken to the clubhouse in a wheelchair felt surreal. It couldn’t be happening. But it was happening.
What made Diaz’s injury even harder to take was that it didn’t occur while he was playing baseball. It happened while he was celebrating with his teammates, jumping up and down after a win over their rival.
Before we discuss what Diaz’s likely season-ending injury means for the Mets, a few thoughts on the WBC…
The tournament means a ton to the players, especially those from baseball-crazed countries. That includes Diaz and his Team Puerto Rico teammate Francisco Lindor. It includes Eduardo Escobarwho is playing for Venezuela, and many, many others.
At the same time, the kind of injury that happened to Diaz while he was participating in a tournament that meant literally nothing to the Mets would almost certainly not have happened at spring training — the Mets’ one-time fake World Series celebration in 2021 nevertheless.
It’s OK for fans to recognize how much the players care about the WBC while being distraught and angry over an injury that happened after a game that didn’t matter to the Mets.
Diaz is literally irreplaceable.
The Mets losing him, likely for the season, is among the worst things that could’ve happened to them, along with an injury of this possible severity to Lindor, Pete Alonso, Justin Verlanderor Max Scherzer.
Diaz, the best and most dominant closer in baseball, is easily one of the Mets’ five most important players. It can be argued that he’s one of their three most important. And for a team that is uniquely all-in and has serious World Series aspirations, losing a lockdown closer with wipeout stuff could hurt the most in the postseason.
With all that said, and as big of a gut punch as this is, the season is not over and the Mets’ World Series hopes have not disintegrated.
It was of course the Houston Astros who won the World Series in 2022. They had a great bullpen, but did not have Diaz. So, the Mets overcoming this can happen. But their road just got a hell of a lot harder.
What should they do now?
As noted above, Diaz cannot be replaced. He’s too much of a unicorn. But the Mets should be doing everything they can to strengthen every facet of the roster. That obviously means the bullpen, but it should also mean other areas.
A bullpen without Diaz (it really sucks to write those words) is a bullpen without an elite closer.
New York has strong late-game options like David Robertson, Adam Ottavinoand Brooks Raley, but none of them comes anywhere close to Diaz. Maybe one will step up and become the main closer. Maybe the Mets will mix and match.
But with Diaz gone for the year barring a very quick recovery, the Mets need to be opportunistic and aggressive when it comes to adding to the bullpen — now, in the coming months, and at the trade deadline.
A signing of Zack Britton could make sense if the Mets think he has anything left, and they should also be exploring the trade market.
It’s rare for teams to unload key pieces this close to Opening Day (and in the early months of the season), but David Bednar of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Daniel Bard of the Colorado Rockies are among the relievers the Mets should have their sights on.
A few weeks ago, GM Billy Eppler reiterated what the Mets’ mindset is. Generally, they do not want to trade their top prospects (or really any of their prospects) for short-term gains. Eppler is going to have to change that line of thinking, at least a bit.
To be clear, this will not mean trading blue chip players like Francisco Alvarez or Brett Baty. They should be off-limits. And even if they weren’t off-limits, they wouldn’t be the price for a reliever like the ones just mentioned. But the Mets must be aggressive.
That means bolstering the bullpen, but it also means being opportunistic if a high-end starting pitcher or impact offensive player becomes available.
The Mets should also not hesitate to carry prospects like Baty and Mark Vientos from the jump, and should be ready to turn to Alvarez and/or Ronny Mauricio as soon as they’re deemed ready.
Baty and the others (and any non-relievers the Mets acquire) obviously won’t help fill the gaping hole in the bullpen, but they should strengthen the team and provide a jolt. And that’s what it’s about now for the Mets. You cannot replace an irreplaceable player, but you can do your best to fill in around him.
This season was one the Mets hoped would end with Diaz on the mound, securing the final out of the World Series. That is highly unlikely now, which is an enormous hit on the field, in the clubhouse, and emotionally. But as bad a hit as this is, all is not lost. The path is just a lot more challenging.