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What Edwin Díaz’s devastating knee injury means for the Mets’ 2023 ambitions

What Edwin Díaz's devastating knee injury means for the Mets’ 2023 ambitions

The reality of Edwin Díaz’s shocking, freak knee injury is still sinking in. The best closer in baseball, whose 2022 season with the New York Mets ranked among the great relief seasons in MLB history, will likely not pitch in 2023 after suffering a torn patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday in the World Baseball Classic.

It was a sickening comedown after Díaz closed out a thrilling, high-energy game that sent his team through to the WBC quarterfinals and bounced the favored D.R. team. The most immediate takeaway is simply disappointment for Díaz, for his clearly crushed Puerto Rico teammates and for Mets fans who will have to go without Díaz’s delirious, trademark entrance music for the first season of the five-year, $102 million deal he signed to stay in New York.

And now the Mets will have to trudge forward without a key piece of the team and clubhouse. With a massive payroll and star-studded roster, their target is undoubtedly still the World Series. But Díaz’s injury raises several big questions before Opening Day has even arrived.

How much will Edwin Díaz’s injury hurt the Mets?

You can answer this question with an eye toward granular 2023 projections or the sweeping narrative of the Mets’ quest to build a juggernaut under team owner Steve Cohen. The gist is the same either way: a whole lot.

Let’s start with the granular. A week ago, FanGraphs’ depth chart projections viewed the Mets bullpen as MLB’s third-best unit heading into the season, behind the Atlanta Braves and basically tied with the San Diego Padres. Díaz, unsurprisingly, carried a huge chunk of that expected value. He was projected to run a 2.36 ERA across about 60 innings, striking out more than 40% of the batters he faced. That’s a remarkable line for an inherently conservative projection system to spit out, but it was well earned. Since a rocky 2019 introduction to the Mets, Díaz has been sparkling, logging a 2.27 ERA, 70 saves and an MLB-best 42.7% strikeout rate across 150 1/3 innings.

Without him, the Mets bullpen now ranks 20th on FanGraphs’ depth charts, sandwiched between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs. Now, it should be noted that there are other forces in play besides Díaz. The Mets’ bullpen depth options are also stretched thin by other injuries, most notably to Jose Quintana in the starting rotation.

Last year, even with Díaz’s heroics, the Mets had MLB’s 11th-best…

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