NEW YORK (AP)With a record contract for Edwin Diaz, his swift return to the New York Mets was music to their ears.
Diaz and the Mets completed their $102 million, five-year deal Wednesday – the largest for a reliever in baseball history. The star closer can opt out after three seasons, and the agreement includes a team option for 2028.
The 28-year-old Diaz became a free agent Sunday following a dominant season with the Mets. Needing to rebuild most of their pitching staff, they started at the back end of the bullpen and quickly locked up the right-hander before other teams were permitted to negotiate with him.
”Edwin has every attribute we look for in a closer,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a news release. ”He’s a tremendous competitor, has a burning desire to be the best and possesses the stuff to compete with any hitter in the league. We are thrilled he’ll be anchoring our bullpen moving forward.”
Diaz went 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 32 saves in 35 chances this year, making his second All-Star team. He had 118 strikeouts in 62 innings over 61 appearances as New York won 101 games – second-most in club history – and earned the top National League wild card for its first playoff berth in six years.
Harnessing his 100 mph-plus fastball and wipeout slider, Diaz became the third major league pitcher to face at least 200 batters and strike out more than half of them, joining closers Aroldis Chapman in 2014 and Craig Kimbrel in 2012. Diaz’s rate of 17.13 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in big league history behind Chapman’s mark of 17.74 in 2014.
Along the way, Diaz became a fan favorite at Citi Field with his rousing entrance to the popular tune ”Narco” by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet.
”Sound the trumpets! It’s official. Edwin Diaz deal is done,” Mets owner Steve Cohen tweeted Wednesday after Diaz passed his physical.
The aggressive move by the Mets took one of the top arms off the market before baseball’s free-agent frenzy even begins this offseason.
Diaz’s deal broke the previous high for a reliever, set when Chapman returned to the New York Yankees after the 2016 season for an $86 million, five-year agreement. Chapman voided the last two years and reached a $48 million, three-year contract that brought his earnings to $104 million over six seasons.
Eppler said late in the season he told agent Joel Wolfe the team was interested in re-signing Diaz, and expressed that to the pitcher directly as players were leaving the clubhouse following the final game.
”Began dialogue, I don’t know, 12, 15 days after that. We had a good amount of dialogue over the last week before we really dug into some numbers and kind of walked through some structures. Once we could outline kind of a framework, it was just a matter of calling everyone on the line,” Eppler said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas.
”We trust the player. We trust the character. He wanted to get something done. He wanted to stay here. He was very upfront about that and we were ready to go, so we felt it was a really good match.”
Under Cohen, who bought the Mets after the 2020 season, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.
New York was eliminated by San Diego in the wild-card series, and a string of key players became free agents after the World Series, including center fielder Brandon Nimmo and starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.
The Mets must decide by Thursday whether to exercise a $14 million club option on 35-year-old righty Carlos Carrasco, who went 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 29 starts.
In the bullpen, nearly all of the team’s top relievers besides Drew Smith became free agents, including Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Joely Rodriguez and Trevor Williams.
New York faced a Wednesday deadline on whether to exercise an $8 million mutual option on reliever Mychal Givens.
Diaz’s turnaround in New York following a wretched debut has been nothing short of remarkable.
After leading the majors with 57 saves and compiling a 1.96 ERA in 2018 for Seattle, Diaz was acquired in a polarizing trade that also brought an aging Robinson Cano (and $100 million left on his contract) to the Mets for a package that featured touted prospect Jarred Kelenic.
The reliever served up a whopping 15 home runs in 58 innings during his first season with the Mets in 2019, going 2-7 with a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves in 33 opportunities. He lost his job as closer down the stretch, and fans booed him relentlessly.
Now, he’s set to be trumpeted at Citi Field and paid riches for years to come.
In addition to retaining Diaz, the Mets claimed Tayler Saucedo off waivers from Toronto on Wednesday. The 29-year-old left-hander had no record and a 13.50 ERA in four appearances with the Blue Jays this season.
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas and AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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