USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Who becomes Mets’ closer?
The New York Mets saw one of their worst fears become a reality March 15 in Miami.
They were hoping to make it through the World Baseball Classic free of injury. But after one of the biggest games of the tournament, as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic battled to stay alive, disaster struck.
As Edwin Diaz jumped around celebrating Puerto Rico’s monumental 5-2 victory over the tourney favorites, he crumbled to the turf. The Mets closer could not put any pressure on his right leg and had to be removed from the field in a wheelchair.
Diaz tore his patellar tendon in his right knee. Diaz, who is coming off a 32save season, is likely to miss the entire 2023 season as he recovers from surgery.
Now, with Diaz out long term, what will that mean for the Mets’ closing situation moving forward?
Robertson or Ottavino?
General manager Billy Eppler made a hefty investment in the team’s bullpen during the offseason, and those deals provide some clues as to who the team might deploy.
The team signed David Robertson to a one-year, $10 million deal in December, and the 37-year-old right-hander has the most closer experience of any member of the Mets bullpen.
Last season, Robertson notched 20 saves – 14 with the Chicago Cubs and six with the Philadelphia Phillies – while finishing with a 4-3 record, 2.40 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 632⁄3 innings. He had not picked up a save since 2018, but he has 157 saves over his 14-year career.
Robertson excels against both righties and lefties and was in the top 3% in expected batting average last season.
The Mets also re-signed Adam Ottavino to a two-year, $14.5 million deal. The New York native is coming off one of his best seasons of his career, tallying a 6-3 record with a 2.06 ERA in 652⁄3 innings. He struck out 79 batters and nabbed a WHIP of 0.98.
While one of the most dependable high-leverage relievers last season, Ottavino lacks primary closer experience. He picked up a career-high 11 saves with the Boston Red Sox in 2021 but never had more than seven saves in prior seasons.
What did Diaz bring?
After a rocky journey during his first three seasons with the Mets, Diaz put it all together last season.
His banner 2022 season led him to a second All-Star Game appearance and a ninth-place finish in National League Cy Young award voting. He signed a record five-year, $102 million contract to stay with the Mets in the offseason.
He struck out more than 50% of the batters he faced (118 out of 235) and allowed just nine runs in 62 innings with an ERA of 1.31. Diaz electrified the Mets fan base with his penchant for overpowering hitters with a triple-digit fastball and wipe-away slider and a viral entrance to Blasterjaxx’s “Narco.”
How do the Mets fill out their bullpen?
Diaz’s freak injury was the latest blow to the pitching staff.
Left-hander Jose Quintana is going to be out until at least July as he recovers from a stress fracture in his left rib and bone graft surgery after a lesion was found in that area.
The Mets bullpen has also been struck by injuries to Brooks Raley (low-grade hamstring strain), Sam Coonrod (highgrade lat strain) and Bryce Montes de Oca (right elbow stress reaction).
Stephen Nogosek continues to be a front-runner for a job with no more minor league options available. An injury could clear the path for John Curtiss, who is coming off Tommy John surgery but has allowed just one earned run on three hits in six innings with 10 strikeouts this spring. Tommy Hunter has not given up a run this spring and has spent numerous seasons in manager Buck Showalter’s bullpens.
Jeff Brigham would be another name to watch to occupy a bullpen spot with the options thinning. The 31-year-old righty has allowed two earned runs in 62⁄3 this spring while striking out eight and pitching to a 0.90 WHIP.
The Mets could also seek out an outside option to fill out their bullpen.