Why else would they have not been aggressive enough to sign Brad Hand? Hand signed a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Washington Nationals since he would get a shot to be their closer.
The Mets likely offered no guarantee about that role, and that is a mistake. Just because Diaz is their closer should mean nothing. If the Mets can find someone better as a closer, they should have done just that.
If nothing else, Diaz should be competing for his job.
I know, I know the Mets traded for him to be the shutdown closer. I understand he pitched well with a 1.75 ERA to show for it in an abbreviated season last season. But he did blow four saves.
Therein lies the rub right there.
Can the Mets really trust him in big games? He pitched well where there was no pressure this past season. They were not good enough to be a playoff team or a winning team.
The Mets look at themselves as a wild-card contender this season. If it’s true, they must rely on Diaz to close games. Who knows if he can handle it after watching him two years ago? He blew seven saves in his first year as a Met that drew comparisons to Armando Benitez.
On June 27, 2019, Diaz imploded by giving up five runs in the ninth inning in a game the Mets called on him to protect a 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets went on to lose 6-3 after he gave up a three-run home run to Jean Segura that followed after giving up a two-run, tying home run to Maikel Franco.
In the Mets’ second game of the 2020 season, the Mets closer gave up a two-out, game-tying home run to Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna in the ninth inning. The Mets went on to take a 5-3 loss to Braves in 10 innings after being an out away from getting a 2-1 victory and being 2-0 for the season.
Diaz’s two blown saves stand out to me the most here. He raises questions than answers in a big spot like this.
Fans will eventually return to Citi Field once people are vaccinated or whenever the pandemic ends. He is going to have to pitch in front of the fans who are going to be on him. I wonder if he will be tough enough to handle it after being overwhelmed in his first season. Fortunately for Diaz, there’s a good chance the fans may not be at the games this entire season.
But even then, the ghosts of his blown saves will remind him whenever he is out there. His failures will be on his mind whenever he is in a jam. He needs to work fast and gets out fast, but that’s not his game. He is always an adventure when he is out on the mound. His saves are never easy since he tends to have runners in scoring position when he is out there.
In a perfect world, the Mets would trade him. No team wants him at $7 million as a closer or any reliever in that role. They are stuck with him rather they like it or not. They know it, too. They were not going to pay his salary by trading him to another team. They were not releasing him and letting him keep his money.
It doesn’t mean he should still be the closer. He should earn his role. If he can’t get it done, the Mets owe it to themselves to make a change as a closer. This is where Hand comes in handily (no pun intended). He could be the safety net in case Diaz falters.
Quite frankly if the Mets wanted Hand, they would have signed him and make him the closer. They apparently trust Diaz enough in that role that they did not pursue Hand hard enough. It wasn’t surprising.
Sugar (Diaz) enters the 2021 season as the closer for better or for worse. This means he will never be a dull moment. This means preparing for antacids when he is out in the ninth and praying for the best.
Is this a situation the Mets feel comfortable with?
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