The Mets have a legitimate shot to win the World Series, even after the devastating injury to their closer, Edwin Díaz, which is why they must explore the trade market sooner rather than later.
They were aggressive in the offseason and struck early to prevent Díaz from reaching free agency, signing him to a record five-year, $102 million deal. But their worst nightmare occurred Wednesday when Díaz, arguably the best in the sport at his role, injured his right knee during a celebration after Team Puerto Rico’s win vaulted them into the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals. On Thursday, he underwent surgery on his right patellar tendon, a procedure that comes with a general recovery timeline of eight months, which would rule him out for the entire season.
The margins in the National League East, the toughest division in baseball, are so tight. The Mets won 101 games last year but were edged by the Braves at the wire. This year, with the Braves and Phillies also capable of winning the division and World Series, the East is expected to be a season-long battle.
Therefore, addressing the closer role is important for the Mets. They have options to fill the void left by Díaz’s injury, including a couple of in-house relievers: David Robertson, 37, has 157 career saves and recorded a total of 20 last season for the Cubs and Phillies; Adam Ottavino, 37, has 33 career saves, including 11 for the Red Sox in 2021. Robertson might deserve the first shot at the role, but if the Mets initially go with internal options, I would guess manager Buck Showalter will use some sort of committee based on the best matchups.
However, I think the Mets’ best play would be to trade for a closer. I’m not suggesting they need to do it right away, nor should they “overpay” by offering any of their top-five prospects. But I do think their farm system is deep enough to make a trade that would appeal to both teams, if they focus on trade targets strictly on non-contending teams that are rebuilding.
Here are six trade targets general manager Billy Eppler could consider as the Mets begin to navigate the 2023 season without Díaz.
(Statistics are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted. WAR is according to Baseball Reference.)
1. Daniel Bard, RHP, Rockies
HT: 6-4 WT: 215
WAR: 3.8 W-L: 6-4 ERA: 1.79 SV: 34
G: 57 GF: 48 IP: 60 1/3 SO: 69 BB: 25 WHIP: 0.994
The Rockies are picked by most to finish in last place again so there is little reason for them to keep a 37-year-old closer. Daniel Bard had a tremendous 2022 season, recording career-high velocities on his fastball, which averaged 98 mph, and his slider, which averaged 88 mph. Bard’s fastball spin rate and fastball velocity each ranked in the 97th percentile. His xERA/xwOBA was in the 95th percentile, and his Barrell% was in the 89th percentile. He posted a 1.59 ERA on the road and a 1.97 ERA at home, a close split given the Coors Field factor. Bard is signed through 2024 on a two-year, $19 million deal.