As the Red Sox continue their search for bullpen help and the Mets continue to puzzle onlookers, the two teams have been in touch about a potential Edwin Diaz deal. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted early this morning that third base prospect Bobby Dalbec or corner infielder Triston Casas would likely be targeted as the centerpiece of any deal by the Mets. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets that Boston has indeed discussed a possible Diaz swap with the Mets, though, adding that the Red Sox are likely to add at least one, if not two relievers in the coming days. SNY’s Andy Martino tweets that there’s “nothing hot” between the two sides at the moment, however.
It’s shaping up to be quite the deadline for the Mets, who shipped their two best pitching prospects to the Blue Jays yesterday in a trade that netted them Marcus Stroman. At the same time, the Mets appear poised to trade away some combination of Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas, Todd Frazier and Diaz — the latter of whom was portrayed as a signature offseason acquisition in what proved a near-immediately regrettable trade with the Mariners.
Instead of anchoring the bullpen and reprising his role as one of the game’s premier relievers, Diaz has taken a step back in nearly every category this season. The 25-year-old has seen virtually every one of his rate stats — strikeout, walk, home-run, ground-ball, swinging-strike, hard-hit and opponent chase — trend in the wrong direction. His premium velocity has held strong, as he’s averaged 97.2 mph on his heater, but the across-the-board results for Diaz have been ugly. It doesn’t help him that the Mets’ defense is awful, but he’s sitting on a bloated 4.95 ERA and has already allowed more runs, hits and homers in 40 innings this season than he did in 72 1/3 frames last year. A 3.24 xFIP and 2.87 SIERA each portend better days, but it’s tough to understate what a disappointing season it’s been for Diaz so far.
All of that said, Diaz appears healthy and still possesses an elite arsenal of pitches. Paired with the fact that he’s not eligible for arbitration until this winter and can be controlled through the 2022 season, Diaz’s plus raw stuff surely gives other clubs confidence that he can be fixed (be it through pitch selection, a mechanical adjustment, improved defense behind him, etc.). The Boston bullpen has lacked established talent all season, and the relief corps has been particularly problematic this summer.
As for the Mets, they seemingly hope to structure their 2020 rotation around 2018 Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and Stroman — a fine one-two combination, to be sure — and believe they’ll get more in trading away others than they surrendered to acquire Stroman. While they can’t unscramble the egg, so to speak, and recoup the value they lost in dealing Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista to the Mariners (while taking on half the remaining money on Robinson Cano’s deal), the apparently forthcoming slate of trades should indeed replenish their farm to an extent. Syndergaard has more trade value than Stroman did, and Diaz should fetch some quality young talent if he is indeed shipped off.
Nonetheless, it’d be a dizzying sequence of moves that wouldn’t clearly leave the Mets better off than they started. While it’s commendable, on the one hand, that the team continues to eye contention in the short-term rather than acquiesce to the growing trend of large-scale rebuilds, the tightrope act the Mets look to be attempting is rife with risk. Perhaps moving Diaz and Syndergaard can each net a near-MLB-ready asset or two, but it’s not at all clear that they’d be in a better position with Stroman and those theoretical young assets. Stroman himself isn’t a particularly controllable player, after all, as he’ll be a free agent in the 2020-21 offseason. If things go south again next year, he’d likely be traded as a rental for less than the Mets paid to acquire him. And, in moving Diaz by Wednesday, they’d open a need for further late-inning bullpen help in the offseason — the very same need that led to this situation.