Edwin Diaz wanted to stay with the Mets all along, and the Mets likewise wanted to keep Diaz, but the sides agreeing to a five-year, $102 million deal last month wasn’t as simple as mutual affection.
It took a whole lot of money, too. Breaking the record for largest reliever contract — topping the $86 million guarantee for five years that Aroldis Chapman got from the Yankees before the 2017 season — was important to Diaz.
“Setting that (new standard), I feel really happy, because that will help all the guys coming behind me,” Diaz said during a video news conference Thursday, his first public comments since re-signing. “I keep pushing the value of the reliever up. I feel really happy for that.”
General manager Billy Eppler said: “His impact on the organization and that we’re trying to build here goes beyond his exceptional ability on the mound. It’s the professionalism, the way he carries himself, the respect he has from his teammates. It all speaks volumes about the person that he is. He reflects who we want to be.”
Diaz could have tested free agency to see what other teams thought of him — and what they wanted to pay him. But he passed on that opportunity many players treasure.
“We reached a deal really quick because we knew what we wanted,” he said. “We were really pleased about the deal.”
The tricky part now for Eppler will be rebuilding the bridge to Diaz. Only two regular relievers from their bullpen last season are returning: Diaz and Drew Smith. Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Trevor Williams and Tommy Hunter are free agents (and Joely Rodriguez already signed with the Red Sox).
Some part-time major-leaguers, such as Stephen Nogosek, Yoan Lopez and Bryce Montes de Oca, remain with the organization and are candidates to win bullpen jobs in spring training. That also is true for the bevy of arms the Mets have acquired in recent weeks: Jeff Brigham, Elieser Hernandez, Stephen Ridings, William Woods and others.
But suffice to say the Mets will bring in a few additional surer things for the relief corps.
“I know Billy and the staff, will do the best to get a great bullpen, have a great bullpen like we had this season,” Diaz said. “I can’t wait to see what they do to bring another great bullpen back.”