Mets’ Closer Feels ‘Really Blessed’ as He Discusses New Deal

Edwin Díaz has many reasons to smile this winter. Not only is he the proud recipient of a five-year, $102 million contract — the richest ever for a relief pitcher — but he also signed the deal with the team he hoped would retain him and in the city where he wanted to remain.

And as Díaz, the All-Star Mets closer, scanned social media before a video call with reporters on Thursday to officially announce the deal, he found one more thing to brighten his day. He said he learned that it was the fourth anniversary of a seven-player trade that sent him, infielder Robinson Canó and cash from Seattle to the Mets for a package that included Jay Bruce, an outfielder who last played in 2021, and outfielder Jarred Kelenic, a onetime hot prospect who has yet to find his footing with the Mariners.

“I started laughing because I signed this past week, and four years ago I was getting traded to here, and now I’m signing the biggest deal for a reliever,” Díaz said. “So I feel really happy, really blessed, and I can’t wait to start the season again.”

The fourth anniversary of the deal that brought Díaz to Citi Field is actually Saturday (Dec. 3). But the general idea holds: After Díaz assumed he had found a home in Seattle during a breakout season at age 24 in 2018 when he led the majors in saves (57) and games finished (65), the Mariners instead leveraged what they figured would be his best season to make an impact deal.

The reverberations of that day continue to ripple out more from Díaz than from the marquee name in the deal (Canó) or the best prospect (Kelenic). Díaz has racked up 64 saves over the past two seasons (in 73 opportunities), finished 100 games and given his managers, Buck Showalter (in 2022) and Luis Rojas (2021), enormous comfort in the final innings.

“Edwin has everything we look for in a closer,” Billy Eppler, the Mets’ general manager, said in formally announcing the deal Thursday. “When we think about building teams that can really compete, having the type of elite talent he possesses for a game’s most important moment is critical. And his impact goes beyond his ability on the mound.”

Díaz was a strikeout machine in 2022 with a whiff rate of 50.2 percent (235 batters faced, 118 strikeouts), the third-highest mark in major league history. He led all relief pitchers in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings (17.1). The latter was the second-best rate in major league history over a full season, behind Aroldis Chapman’s 17.7 in 2014.

Díaz also set a Mets record in 2022 by reaching 100 strikeouts in 52⅓ innings pitched, which also trails only Chapman’s 2014 season for the major league record.

Given the mutual desire to renew their partnership, Eppler and Díaz said the deal came together quickly. Díaz said that the Mets phoned his agent within a couple of weeks of their elimination in the playoffs by San Diego and that the talks went smoothly.

Díaz said what matters most to him regarding the trailblazing nature of his landmark deal is “thinking I can help all the guys coming behind me.” He added, “I keep pushing the value of relievers up, and I feel really happy about that.”

The closer, smiling some more, thanked the Mets owner Steven A. Cohen as well as Eppler and Showalter “for trusting me, supporting me.” He added: “I thank all the fans for their support also. And lastly, I thank the writers for giving me the award for Good Guy. I feel really happy. I can’t wait to get that trophy.”

He was referencing his having won the annual Good Guy Award, which is presented at the New York Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in January to the player who deals best with the local news media.

Between now and then, Díaz will be hard at work. He said he started throwing three weeks ago in preparation for the 2023 season, which the Mets, with a roster still under winter construction, will enter with high hopes and big expectations.

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