Red Sox

Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are rumored to be interested in Mets closer Edwin Diaz in advance of Wednesday's MLB trade deadline..

Diaz would plug the team's most glaring hole, providing a legitimate ninth inning arm and slotting the remaining relievers into the sixth, seventh, and eighth. While the emergence of Brandon Workman has given the Red Sox someone who feels like a closer, he'd ideally be used in the seventh and eighth, alongside fellow curveballing right-hander Matt Barnes.

Diaz has pitched better than his 1-6, 4.95 ERA numbers suggest. One year after saving an AL-leading 57 games for the Mariners -- tied for second-most all-time -- the 25-year-old right-hander has 23 saves with the Mets.

A look under the hood, however, suggests a change of scenery could make a difference. Diaz boasts a FIP of 3.83, which is considered a more accurate indicator of future performance than ERA, because it measures the outcomes a pitcher most directly controls -- walks, strikeouts, and home runs.

FIP leaves out fielding, which Diaz would probably prefer, because the Mets' infield might be the worst in the majors. Shortstop Ahmed Rosaria has made 13 errors and cost the Mets a staggering 15 runs at short, per Baseball Info Solutions. Second baseman Robinson Cano is a minus-6. Third baseman Todd Frazier is a minus-1.

The Mets are also below average across the outfield, where former Gold Glove center fielder Juan Lagares has a lost a step, All-Star utilityman Jeff McNeil would probably best be served playing the infield, and right fielder Michael Conforto is mediocre.

 

As a result, Diaz's batting average on balls in play is an absurd .398, about 100 points higher than the league average. Because he allows nearly twice as many fly balls as ground balls, it stands to reason that pitching in front of Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi should help produce more outs.

In a recent Mets game, for instance, Zack Wheeler was charged with an earned run after allowing a single that eluded a diving Conforto, a single past a diving Cano, and a single off the glove of Rosario. All three plays could've been made. None were.

Of course, when Diaz is going well, he doesn't need his fielders at all. He struck out 124 in just 73.1 innings last year (15.2/9 IP) and is at 13.7 Ks per nine this year. He is a two-pitch pitcher who relies on a 98 mph fastball and 88-90 mph slider.

He had trouble commanding the slider early this year, which cost him chase strikeouts and forced him to throw more fastballs, which in turn has led to an increase in home runs, including one on Monday night during a heart-attack save vs. the Pirates.

When Diaz is right, his fastball explodes up and in on right-handed hitters, while his slider dives viciously down and away. Unfortunately, the lack of slider command has led to him throwing it a career-low 28.3 percent of the time, which has allowed opponents to sit fastball. When he has missed with his slider, it has gotten crushed to the tune of three homers and a .566 slugging percentage against.

So if the Red Sox were to acquire Diaz, it would be a gamble, especially if his confidence has been shaken. He does have a history with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who managed him for Team Puerto Rico at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

He also fits Boston's payroll, since he's making only $607,000 this year and remains under team control through 2022.

His impact on the roster would be obvious. Give Diaz the ninth, let Workman, Barnes, and Nathan Eovaldi split the seventh and eighth, and there'd still be lower-leverage innings for some combination of Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor, and Heath Hembree.

That's a much more reliable bullpen than the one that has turned the late innings into a consistent adventure. Perhaps Diaz is the solution.

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