4 options for Mets to fill Díaz-sized hole in bullpen

March 16th, 2023

Edwin Díaz’s season is likely over after he suffered a right patellar tendon tear Wednesday night while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

The stunning injury leaves the Mets with a big hole in the bullpen, where the club was counting on Díaz to lock down the closer’s spot after he signed a five-year, $102 million deal this offseason.

“It’s a big blow, but the Mets have some arms that can pick up the slack,” one National League executive said. “They might make an addition or two prior to the season, but if they need to bolster the bullpen this summer, they should be able to. There are always relievers available around the Deadline.”

How might the Mets address the loss of their All-Star closer? Here are some options to consider.

1. Make David Robertson the closer

No matter what other move(s) the Mets decide to make, this one seems like the first domino to fall. Robertson has the most closing experience on the staff, collecting 157 career saves during his 14-year career.

The right-handed Robertson, who turns 38 next month, had 20 saves with the Cubs and Phillies last season and is capable of handling ninth-inning duties as long as he stays healthy. He’s also handled the pressure of New York, pitching the first seven seasons of his career with the Yankees before returning to the Bronx in 2017-18.

2. OK, then what?

Assuming Robertson slides into the closer’s role, the rest of the relief corps theoretically moves up one rung on the bullpen ladder. That means Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith become the Mets’ primary setup men, with Brooks Raley joining the group once his hamstring injury is behind him.

But if the Mets are concerned that their group minus Díaz isn’t deep enough, they can always add an arm from the remaining free-agent market.

3. Sign a free agent

That market is headlined by Zack Britton, who has held a few workouts for interested teams this offseason, and the left-hander was reportedly set to do so again on Thursday in California. Britton made only three appearances in 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2021, but he is healthy now and looking for a job.

The Mets had interest in Britton prior to Díaz’s injury, so if they like what they see in his latest showcase, he could be signed to give New York another arm with late-inning experience. Don’t undersell Britton’s relationship with Mets manager Buck Showalter, who was a big fan of the southpaw during their time together in Baltimore.

Other available relievers include Corey Knebel, Archie Bradley, Mike Minor and Ken Giles.

4. Explore the trade market

Finding a reliable reliever in a trade this close to the season feels unrealistic, though the Mets have the prospects to use if they feel the need to add a big arm prior to Opening Day.

That said, although general manager Billy Eppler will likely call around to see if any rebuilding teams are willing to part with a reliever making money (or set to do so in arbitration/free agency next offseason), the more likely scenario is the Mets waiting until the summer to execute such a trade.

By July, teams that are seemingly out of the race will be shopping a number of relievers, because that’s what happens every year. Perhaps the Red Sox will be willing to part with Kenley Jansen, or the Pirates with David Bednar.

Last summer, we saw relievers including Robertson, Josh Hader, Raisel Iglesias, Jorge López, Michael Fulmer, Will Smith, Trevor Rosenthal, Scott Effross, Mychal Givens, Jake Diekman and Anthony Bass all moved prior to the Trade Deadline. If the Mets need a bullpen arm or two come July, there should be plenty there for the taking.