Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has said numerous times that the team hopes to improve the bullpen (among other areas) heading into the 2020 season. What does that mean for the embattled Edwin Diaz?
After a tremendous 2018 season with the Mariners, Diaz had a disastrous season in 2019 after being acquired by New York, allowing 15 homers in 58 innings while posting a 5.59 ERA (4.51 FIP) and 1.37 WHIP. He lost his closer job and was at times relegated to being one of the last options in the bullpen.
Still, Van Wagenen said Tuesday during an appearance on WFAN with Mike Francesa that the Mets expect Diaz to be pitching in high-leverage situations in 2020, adding that their "projection systems still believe in Diaz' talent and we know that we've got a guy that's gonna rebound and be an All-Star type performer for us."
Diaz being in the plans for 2020 should not come as a surprise, since Van Wagenen said shortly after the season ended -- after Diaz' name was in rumors during the trade deadline -- that the full expectation was that he would be on the team in 2020.
Pressed by Francesa regarding whether he expected Diaz to be the closer in 2020 as things currently stand, Van Wagenen said yes but hedged a bit.
"I think as we sit here with our club right now, yeah, we expect him to be getting those outs in the ninth inning," he explained. "I say that not with a qualifier, but it depends on if he's available that night, who's pitched last."
At that point, Francesa interjected, seeking to confirm that the Mets were not shopping for a closer and that Diaz would be the "main closer" in 2020.
"Yep," Van Wagenen said. "I think if we're playing Opening Day and Jacob deGrom goes eight innings and we give the ball to somebody in the ninth inning, it'll be Edwin Diaz."
Some of what Van Wagenen said can be viewed as simple GM-speak. After spending the last month and change seeking to give Diaz confidence, there was no shot Van Wagenen was going to undermine that -- nor should he have. There was also no way Van Wagenen was going to telegraph his specific intentions as it pertains to the reliever market.
It can be argued that Van Wagenen still should have danced around the questions a bit, but it can also be argued that a bounceback from Diaz should be expected due to the flukish nature of his season and the fact that so much of it boiled down to him being unable to harness his slider.
If the juiced ball and seams/slickness of the ball that hurt Diaz and other pitchers in 2019 is corrected before the 2020 season, that could help immeasurably. But there's no guarantee the ball will be fixed. And there's no guarantee Diaz will rebound even if it is.
As things currently stand, the Mets have five pitchers locked in to bullpen spots for 2020: Diaz, Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, and Robert Gsellman. That could change if one of Lugo or Gsellman slides to the starting rotation -- a possibility Van Wagenen has talked up over the last few weeks.
That means the Mets could conceivably add two or three relievers this offseason, and they have already been linked to free agent Dellin Betances.
In any event, if what Van Wagenen said about Diaz on Tuesday wasn't simply GM-speak, his decision to enter the season with Diaz as the closer could have a significant impact on next season. And it could make Van Wagenen look brilliant -- or not.
New Mets manager Carlos Beltran has also spoken recently about Diaz, and he sat down with SNY to discuss how he hopes to help get him back to dominance in 2020: