Edwin Diaz’s struggles may finally be loosening his grip on the Mets’ closing job, as manager Mickey Callaway told reporters (including Newsday’s Tim Healey) that “I don’t think we can lock ourselves in to one thing” in terms of who pitches the ninth inning. “Moving forward, it’s just something that we’re going to do whatever we can to win a game that night,” Callaway said. After a dominant 2018 season with the Mariners, Diaz’s first season in Queens has been a borderline disaster, with a 5.44 ERA inflated by a 22.2% home run rate and a huge increase in the righty’s hard-hit ball rate. Just when it seemed like Diaz might have been turning a corner by tossing six scoreless innings over a seven-game stretch in July, he proceeded to allow at least one earned run in each of his last four outings.
This would seem to open the door for Seth Lugo to receive save opportunities, as Callaway said that Lugo also isn’t operating out of an assigned role. Lugo has been the Mets’ best reliever this season, and could be shifted into closer duties or (if the Mets strayed from the traditional closer role) be saved only for highest-leverage situations, whether those are in the ninth inning or earlier in the game.
Here’s more as we begin a new week…
- The Rays’ busy trade deadline is explored by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who includes the detail that the club wasn’t willing to discuss moving many of their top prospects, including Wander Franco, Brendan McKay, Vidal Brujan and Matthew Liberatore. Jesus Sanchez was the only member of that top tier who seemed to be on the block, and indeed it was Sanchez who was dealt along with Ryne Stanek to the Marlins in exchange for Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson.
- Meanwhile, Stanek’s erstwhile role as an opener factored into the Rays’ decision to trade the right-hander. Interestingly, Topkin writes that the Rays “shed the uncertainty of his opener-influenced arbitration case in 2021,” which promises to be a fascinating test case for how an arbiter could put a financial precedent on a new role within the game. As Topkin notes, Stanek has been much better as an opener (2.71 ERA in 83 innings) than in a normal relief role (4.73 ERA in 59 innings).
- The Brewers believe they might have a hidden gem in trade deadline acquisition Ray Black, as president of baseball operations David Stearns told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Black has “as good…stuff as any reliever in the game.” Black had only a 6.04 ERA over 25 1/3 career Major League innings as a member of the Giants, due in part to five homers allowed in that brief stint. However, he also struck out 38 batters with his blazing fastball, and also posted a 3.70 ERA, 2.83 K/BB rate, and 16.8 K/9 over 153 1/3 career frames in the minors. Between that live arm and those strikeout totals, Stearns thinks Black can blossom in Milwaukee, and pointed to a relatively healthy season for Black in 2019 as a positive development after multiple years shortened by injuries. “The most important thing for him is keeping him on the field….He has changed some of his training regimens over the last year, and that seems to have helped. We’re hoping and optimistic that we can help keep him healthy,” Stearns said.