MLB

MLB rumors: Mets ‘prioritizing’ Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo in free agency, per report

The New York Mets have one of the largest free agent classes in baseball this offseason and they are prioritizing closer Edwin Díaz and center fielder Brandon Nimmo, reports SNY. New York’s other likely free agents include ace Jacob deGrom (opt out), righties Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker (player option), and setup men Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and Adam Ottavino.

Here’s what Mets GM Billy Eppler said about the team’s interest in retaining Díaz during a recent appearance on the New York Post‘s The Show podcast (transcript via SNY):

“Edwin was nothing short of fantastic this season and it was very comforting to watch him come into a game,” Eppler said. “I really appreciated, and I know Buck did too, the usability in some different roles. We saw him pitch in the eighth inning a number of times over the course of the season and he was a very reliable and impactful player for us over the course of the season.

“Would we like to have him back? Absolutely. Are we going to be able to get something worked out? Potentially. But he’s reached a point in his career where he’s afforded himself the opportunity with the ability to look around if he so chooses, but he knows how we feel about him and we know how he feels about us and how comfortable he was this year. He expressed that and I’m not sure if he expressed that specifically to Buck [Showalter], but I passed it along because when I was talking to his agent, he mentioned that. Edwin can provide a big boost to the bullpen and like I said, be used in a number of roles. But we’ll see what the coming day and coming weeks provides.”

Díaz just completed one of the greatest relief seasons in baseball history, throwing 62 innings with a 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts. He struck out 50.2 percent of the batters he faced, the second highest strikeout rate ever behind Aroldis Chapman‘s 52.5 percent mark in 2014 (min. 50 innings). Díaz was otherworldly in 2022 and would be difficult to replace.

At the moment the Mets have just one bona fide MLB reliever in place for 2023: Drew Smith, a righty with 122 1/3 career big league innings to his name. With or without Díaz, Eppler and his staff have to build almost an entire bullpen this season. Bringing Díaz back to handle the ninth inning would be an excellent place to start. Of course, he figures to command the largest reliever contract in history, likely beating out Chapman ($85 million total) and Liam Hendriks ($18 million per year).

As for Nimmo, the lefty on-base machine hit a career high 30 doubles in 2022 and owns a .269/.388/.449 batting line since 2018. Injuries have been an issue (Nimmo has played only 507 of 708 possible games since 2018, or 72 percent), but he still gets on base a ton and plays a solid center field. His skill set should earn him north of $100 million this offseason.

For what it’s worth, Eppler said the Mets are comfortable sliding Starling Marte over to center field in the event Nimmo leaves as a free agent. Also from the New York Post‘s The Show (transcript via MLBTR):

“Can Starling still play center field? Yeah, we believe he can,” Eppler told the Post. “That opens up some optionality for how we ultimately fill out that outfield. … We do have the ability to slide Marte over to center for a number of games, over 50% of the games. He’s got that ability to do that. … We are comfortable with him in center field.”  

Marte moved to right field in deference to Nimmo this past season but he has played center field — and played it well — most of his career. That said, Marte turned 34 last month, and center field is typically a young player’s position. Only three players age 34-plus have played as many as 100 games in center field in a season in the last 10 years: Coco Crisp, Jarrod Dyson, and Brett Gardner. That’s it. Nimmo, meanwhile, will turn 30 in March and should have several more years as a center fielder ahead of him.

The Mets went 101-61 in 2022, though they finished in second place in the NL East and were ousted by the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series. New York’s competitive balance tax payroll was a record $298.8 million in 2022. FanGraphs estimates their current 2023 CBT payroll at $237.6 million, so while they have money to spend (even considering the Cohen Tax), they also have numerous needs to address.



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