Six Relievers Mets Could Target After Edwin Díaz’s Crushing Injury

How will New York replace its All-Star closer in 2023?


March 22

Let’s be perfectly clear: There’s no replacing Edwin Díaz, who suffered a devastating knee injury during the World Baseball Classic that’ll likely sideline him for the New York Mets’ entire 2023 season.

Díaz was the best closer in Major League Baseball in 2022, earning him a new five-year, $102 million deal, the richest contract ever given to a reliever. The Mets will sorely miss his ninth-inning dominance.

But World Series expectations abound in Queens, where team owner Steve Cohen has devoted a ton of financial resources to building a championship contender. While Díaz’s injury is unfortunate, with the potential to crush New York’s bullpen, the Mets simply can’t afford — yes, there’s something they can’t afford — to sit around and feel bad for themselves, especially within a stacked National League East.

The Mets likely will lean heavily on David Robertson and Adam Ottavino — a couple of veteran pitchers with closing experience — in high-leverage, late-inning spots this season. They also should explore MLB free agency and the trade market for potential reinforcements, though, as piecing together games just became a lot more difficult with Díaz unavailable for the final three outs.

So, here are six relievers the Mets theoretically could target with Opening Day looming next week.

Zack Britton, LHP
The Mets were among 10 teams to attend Britton’s showcase last Friday, per the New York Post’s Jon Heyman, which isn’t surprising given the club’s needs and the left-hander’s familiarity with manager Buck Showalter from their time together in Baltimore. Britton is 35 and totaled just 45 appearances (38 innings) over the last three seasons, having undergone Tommy John surgery in September 2021. But he averaged 40 saves per season from 2014 to 2016, a stretch in which he posted a 1.38 ERA and earned two All-Star selections as the Orioles’ closer.

Ken Giles, RHP
Giles, who also underwent Tommy John surgery, has been limited to just nine appearances (eight innings) since the beginning of 2020. And his overall track record isn’t nearly as impressive as Britton’s, as Giles’ peaks have been accompanied by some valleys throughout his MLB career. But Giles is just 32, has closing experience and can miss bats, evident by his career 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Corey Knebel, RHP
Knebel, 31, might have a higher floor but a lower ceiling than the previous two options. He suffered a tear in his shoulder capsule last season, limiting him to 46 appearances (44 2/3 innings) with the Philadelphia Phillies, and has a history of battling injuries. But he was an All-Star in 2017 during a rather impressive run with the Milwaukee Brewers. You could do worse if you’re the Mets.

Daniel Bard, RHP, Colorado Rockies
It was surprising when Colorado didn’t deal Bard before last season’s trade deadline, instead opting to sign him to a two-year, $19 million contract extension. The Rockies are a step (or two, or three) behind their NL West counterparts and seemingly have little use for a 37-year-old closer amid their rebuild. But he nevertheless remains a trade chip that could hold decent value this season if/when the Rox fall out of contention and leaguewide developments increase the demand for late-inning relievers. Bard, who amazingly went seven years between MLB appearances from 2013 to 2020, was excellent in 2022, ranking in the 97th percentile in fastball velocity and fastball spin rate.

Scott Barlow, RHP, Kansas City Royals
The Royals are on the upswing thanks to a young core. So, it’s not like they need to trade Barlow. But he’s been mentioned in trade speculation, and now might be the best time for Kansas City to maximize the return on its asset, with the 30-year-old under contract for two more seasons and coming off a very solid 2022. KC signed Aroldis Chapman, a longtime closer, to a one-year contract over the offseason, so he’s a trade candidate, as well, albeit in a very different category given his age (35) and questionable track record.

Alexis Díaz, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Wouldn’t this be something? The Reds might not have any interest in trading Edwin Díaz’s younger brother. He’s just 26 years old, with the potential to be an elite closer. But Cincinnati presumably would land a haul, thereby expediting its rebuild. Alexis Díaz, who’s under contract through 2027, ranked in the 100th percentile in fastball spin rate and the 97th percentile in whiff rate last season. The best is yet to come, and what a story it would be for him to join his injured sibling in the Big Apple.

Thumbnail photo via Rich Storry/USA TODAY Sports Images
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