Díaz, Mets ink 5-year, $102M deal, record for MLB closer

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NEW YORK — With a record contract on the table, a swift return to the New York Mets was music to Edwin Diaz’s ears.

Diaz and the Mets completed their five-year, $102 million deal – the largest for a reliever in baseball history. The star closer can opt out after three seasons, and the agreement includes a team option for 2028.

The 28-year-old Diaz became a free agent Sunday following a dominant season with the Mets. Needing to rebuild most of their pitching staff, they started at the back end of the bullpen and quickly locked up the right-hander before other teams were permitted to negotiate with him.

“Edwin has every attribute we look for in a closer,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a news release. “He’s a tremendous competitor, has a burning desire to be the best and possesses the stuff to compete with any hitter in the league. We are thrilled he’ll be anchoring our bullpen moving forward.”

Diaz went 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 32 saves in 35 chances this year, making his second All-Star team. He had 118 strikeouts in 62 innings over 61 appearances as New York won 101 games – second-most in club history – and earned the top National League wild card for its first playoff berth in six years.

Harnessing his 100 mph-plus fastball and wipeout slider, Diaz became the third major league pitcher to face at least 200 batters and strike out more than half of them, joining closers Aroldis Chapman in 2014 and Craig Kimbrel in 2012. Diaz’s rate of 17.13 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in big league history behind Chapman’s mark of 17.74 in 2014.

Along the way, Diaz became a fan favorite at Citi Field with his rousing entrance to the popular tune “Narco” by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet.

“Sound the trumpets! It’s official. Edwin Diaz deal is done,” Mets owner Steve Cohen tweeted Wednesday after Diaz passed his physical.

The aggressive move by the Mets took one of the top arms off the market before baseball’s free-agent frenzy even begins this offseason.

Diaz’s deal broke the previous high for a reliever, set when Chapman returned to the New York Yankees after the 2016 season for an $86 million, five-year agreement. Chapman voided the last two years and reached a $48 million, three-year contract that brought his earnings to $104 million over six seasons.

Eppler said late in the season he told agent Joel Wolfe the team was interested in re-signing Diaz, and expressed that to the pitcher directly as players were leaving the clubhouse following the final game.

“Began dialogue, I don’t know, 12, 15 days after that. We had a good amount of dialogue over the last week before we really dug into some numbers and kind of walked through some structures. Once we could outline kind of a framework, it was just a matter of calling everyone on the line,” Eppler said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas.

“We trust the player. We trust the character. He wanted to get something done. He wanted to stay here. He was very upfront about that and we were ready to go, so we felt it was a really good match.”

Under Cohen, who bought the Mets after the 2020 season, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.

New York was eliminated by San Diego in the wild-card series, and a string of key players became free agents after the World Series, including center fielder Brandon Nimmo and starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.

The Mets must decide by Thursday whether to exercise a $14 million club option on 35-year-old righty Carlos Carrasco, who went 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 29 starts.

In the bullpen, nearly all of the team’s top relievers besides Drew Smith became free agents, including Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Joely Rodriguez and Trevor Williams.

New York faced a Wednesday deadline on whether to exercise an $8 million mutual option on reliever Mychal Givens.

Diaz’s turnaround in New York following a wretched debut has been nothing short of remarkable.

After leading the majors with 57 saves and compiling a 1.96 ERA in 2018 for Seattle, Diaz was acquired in a polarizing trade that also brought an aging Robinson Cano (and $100 million left on his contract) to the Mets for a package that featured touted prospect Jarred Kelenic.

The reliever served up a whopping 15 home runs in 58 innings during his first season with the Mets in 2019, going 2-7 with a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves in 33 opportunities. He lost his job as closer down the stretch, and fans booed him relentlessly.

Now, he’s set to be trumpeted at Citi Field and paid riches for years to come.

In addition to retaining Diaz, the Mets claimed Tayler Saucedo off waivers from Toronto on Wednesday. The 29-year-old left-hander had no record and a 13.50 ERA in four appearances with the Blue Jays this season.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

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USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.