There are only a few things more polarizing in baseball than the worth of relief pitchers. Some will swear that relievers are interchangeable parts and are far too volatile on an annual basis to take them seriously. Others will insist that a team can’t possibly win without an officially sanctioned Capital-C Closer (bonus points if he wears glasses or has interesting facial hair).
The Mets, under the team owner Steven A. Cohen and General Manager Billy Eppler, look like a part of the latter group, as they’re within the means of finalizing a $102 million contract with the Capital-C Closer Edwin Díaz, based on an individual accustomed to the negotiations who isn’t authorized to debate them publicly. It will be a record-breaking deal that may keep Timmy Trumpet’s and Blasterjaxx’s version of “Narco” blasting over the loudspeakers at Citi Field for the following five seasons.
For context, the previous record deal for a reliever was the five-year, $86 million contract the left-handed closer Aroldis Chapman signed with the Yankees before the 2017 season. Amongst energetic contracts, only two relievers, the right-handers Raisel Iglesias of Atlanta and Liam Hendriks of the Chicago White Sox, are guaranteed even half as much as Díaz is ready to earn.
It is straightforward to see why a team could be keen to maintain Díaz, a hard-throwing right-hander. He just accomplished a season through which he had a 1.31 E.R.A. in 61 appearances and struck out 50.2 percent of the batters he faced. He has proved to be wildly popular with Mets fans, for each his dramatic entrances and his extreme reliability, and over the past five seasons he has been the second-best reliever in Major League Baseball, when it comes to wins above substitute, even together with his disastrous 2019 season included.
So why would anyone query such an achieved player being handed a record contract? The truth is that relievers, because of their small variety of innings pitched, are sometimes seen as having less of an impact on a team’s ability to win over long periods of time than starters and position players. Díaz’s 8.2 WAR over five seasons, using Baseball Reference’s metric, may make him the second-most beneficial reliever in M.L.B. in that span, but they’ve him tied with the journeyman starter Mike Fiers and two others for fifty fifth amongst all pitchers.
But with the Mets of the Cohen era, this deal very likely has way more to do with a couple of late-October games than it does with sustained regular-season success (or the flexibility to profit off toy trumpets). Cohen desires to win a World Series, the franchise’s first since 1986, and he seems to consider that having Díaz on the back end of his bullpen is a technique to make that goal more attainable.
Watching this yr’s World Series would only have encouraged that belief.
As Games 4 through 6 reached their later innings, the Philadelphia Phillies knew exactly what was coming from the Houston Astros. Some combination of the right-handed relievers Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris and Rafael Montero was going to take over for Houston’s starter, rendering Philadelphia’s bats largely helpless, and the Capital-C Closer Ryan Pressly was going to slam the door.
Pressly didn’t allow an earned run all postseason, and within the World Series he was on the mound to complete all 4 of Houston’s wins.
Thanks largely to his thrilling five-out save in Game 5, Pressly recorded one in every of the ten most impactful World Series performances by a reliever when it comes to championship win probability added, based on research conducted by Baseball Reference. The statistic, which attempts to estimate how much effect a player’s performance had on his team’s ability to win a championship, credits Pressly with a shocking total of 33.87 cWPA on this yr’s World Series (meaning he was single-handedly credited with just over one-third of a win).
It’s the next mark than Mariano Rivera reached in any of the seven World Series he played in, and the list of nine relievers who’ve been more essential than Pressly in a single Series features multiple Hall of Famers:
Those that would diminish the worth of relievers might indicate that essentially the most impactful performance by a reliever in World Series history got here from a starter, when Madison Bumgarner tossed five scoreless innings of two-hit ball as a reliever in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series to shut down the Kansas City Royals. Indeed, five of the ten best relief performances were put in by starters masquerading as relievers.
But Pressly, pitching five and two-thirds innings, managed greater than double the cWPA of shortstop Jeremy Peña (16.5), who won the World Series Most Helpful Player Award. Relievers, it seems, have a tough time constructing value over the course of a season, but in any single postseason game they’ll determine every little thing.
Under Cohen, the Mets don’t operate under the budget limitations of a typical baseball team, so the quantity given to Díaz probably doesn’t matter all that much provided he eventually does something near what Pressly just did. And with multiple other openings within the Mets’ bullpen following the disappointing end to their 2022 season, Cohen won’t be done spending.
So in that context, the reply to how much a top-flight reliever is value in the present market can more than likely be summed up as: Nevertheless much Steven A. Cohen is willing to pay.
James Wagner contributed reporting.