Edwin Diaz was the biggest piece to the bullpen puzzle that Mets general manager Billy Eppler needs to solve this offseason.
And in a Zoom press conference on Thursday, Diaz, speaking publicly for the first time since signing the most lucrative contract for a relief pitcher, $102 million for five years, the closer said he had faith the Mets would find a way to build another solid relief corps.
“I’m back and I know all the free agents, but Billy will do his best to get a great bullpen, like we had last season,’’ Diaz said. “I can’t wait to see what they do.”
Eppler wouldn’t divulge many details about the Mets’ plans for filling out the pen, but both sides made it clear they weren’t surprised a deal to keep Diaz in Queens came together quickly.
“For me and my family, the number one priority was to stay in New York because we love the city of New York, the team and the organization,’’ Diaz said. “Setting a record with that deal, I feel happy to help other guys. It keeps pushing the value of relievers up.”
Diaz made his desire to stick around known to Eppler and owner Steve Cohen during conversations that took place during the World Series.
“We reached a deal really quickly because they knew what we wanted and we were pleased with it,’’ said Diaz, who was as dominant as any reliever in the game a year ago, with 118 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.84.
It was Diaz’s best season since 2018, when he had 57 saves for the Mariners. That preceded the trade four years ago that brought the right-hander and Robinson Cano to the Mets in exchange for a package led by Jarred Kelenic.
“When we think about building teams that can really compete, having that type of elite talent and competitiveness he possesses for games’ most important moments, is critical,’’ Eppler said.
Now, the 28-year-old will be tasked with trying to match his success of last season in a pen that currently has plenty of holes. Joely Rodriguez has signed with the Red Sox and setup men Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, Trevor May, Tommy Hunter and Trevor Williams are free agents.
While the Mets have not yet announced their recent coaching changes, Eppler said other teams had been looking to hire Jeremy Barnes to be their top hitting coach.
That forced the Mets to bump Eric Chavez, the hitting coach last season, to bench coach and promote Barnes from assistant hitting coach to the top spot.
“We felt good about it and [Chavez] and Buck [Showalter] felt good about it,’’ Eppler said.
The moves came as a result of talks with Showalter, as well as the 2022 bench coach, Glenn Sherlock, who will now coach the Mets’ catchers.
Eppler credited Sherlock for his willingness to take a lesser role, which allowed the Mets to “keep our talent,” Eppler said.
- Edwin Diaz confident Mets can build ‘great bullpen’
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