Edwin Diaz Is the 57-Save, 100 MPH Stud Yankees Should Trade the Farm ForNovember 29, 2018
The New York Yankees have already plucked one flamethower from the Seattle Mariners. But as a wise man once said, "Why stop at one Seattle flamethrower when a second may be within reach?"
OK, fine. Nobody ever said that. But even after adding James Paxton, it's true that the Yankees are eyeing another hard-throwing Mariners hurler, Edwin Diaz.
This is according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who reported Tuesday that a who's who of offseason heavyweights have the "strongest interest" in trading for Diaz: the Yankees, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox.
The right-hander is coming off an All-Star season in which he led Major League Baseball with 57 saves and (more importantly) posted a 1.96 ERA with 107 more strikeouts than walks in 73.1 innings. He's also only 24 years old, and he's under club control through 2022.
For now, the catch is that acquiring Diaz's talent, youth and cheap controllability might also require taking on Robinson Cano's twilight years and massive contract.
As they seek to retool their roster, the Mariners would reportedly very much like to get out from under the $120 million they owe Cano, 36, through 2023. Their only hope of doing so may lie in pairing the former Yankees All-Star with a player teams actually want. Per Sherman, that could be Diaz.
But even if this idea falls through—and that's not a big if—Diaz himself might not necessarily come off the block.
Though the Mariners would be loath to part with him, Sherman got the right of the situation from multiple executives: "Having an elite closer on a non-contender has minimal value, and why run the risk of Diaz's value dipping after an elite season?"
What are four years of Diaz worth in a trade? At least what the Yankees got for two-and-a-half years of Andrew Miller in 2016: a four-player package headlined by two top-100 prospects.
Because they've already sacrificed their best prospect (left-hander Justus Sheffield), the Yankees may not like the sound of that.
They must nonetheless accept the fact they need a reliever to fill the holes left by Zach Britton and David Robertson's free agency, and Diaz is the best one they can possibly get.
Diaz has only been in the majors for three seasons, but what he's done in his limited time in The Show is not to be underestimated. Particularly not where his strikeout numbers are concerned.
He's already one of only four relievers in history with multiple seasons of 50-plus innings and a strikeouts-per-nine rate over 15. With the bar set at 150 relief appearances, his career 14.2 K/9 is the second-best ever for a reliever through his first three seasons:
- 1. Craig Kimbrel: 15.9
- 2. Edwin Diaz: 14.2
- 3. Brad Lidge: 12.7
The biggest reason for Diaz's success is obvious whenever he's pitching in the presence of a radar gun. His fastball routinely touches triple digits, and it had a cruising speed of 97.3 mph in 2018. He also threw his slider at an average of 89.1 mph.
Not many relievers brought heat like that on both their fastballs and their sliders:
Not to be overlooked, however, is how Diaz evolved into something beyond a mere thrower in 2018.
Unlike in 2016 and 2017, he kept his release point fairly consistent throughout the season. That was a factor in the skyrocketing of his first-pitch strike rate and, in turn, the lowering of his walk rate to 2.1 batters per nine innings.
His mechanical consistency also augmented the unhittability of Diaz's raw stuff. Per Baseball Prospectus' metrics, his pitches were harder to tell apart on release and at the batter's decision-making point.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this is what batters were up against:
The natural fear with a guy like Diaz is that he's not far from blowing his arm and/or shoulder out and washing out as a late-inning relief ace.
But all things being equal, that's a greater fear with relievers who have been around the block more times than Diaz has. That includes all of this winter's name-brand free agents: Kimbrel, Britton, Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Andrew Miller and Adam Ottavino.
There's also expense to consider with that bunch. According to MLB Trade Rumors, only Miller projects to sign for less than $10 million per year.
That may be neither here nor there if the Yankees don't care about the luxury tax after finally getting under it in 2018. But if they'd rather not go back over it right away, they need to carefully budget the $35 million (per Roster Resource) that's currently standing between them and the 2019 threshold of $206 million. Certainly, it would be better used on Manny Machado or Patrick Corbin.
As for what the Yankees would have to give up for Diaz, they might have to lead with their two best prospects: outfielder Estevan Florial (MLB.com's No. 45) and right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga (No. 66).
As much as that would hurt, it's some consolation that neither is positioned to play a big part for the 2019 Yankees. Diaz would be a much bigger factor in the team's immediate World Series aspirations.
Alternatively, the Yankees might sell the Mariners on a package based on plug-and-play major leaguers. That could involve former top prospects Clint Frazier and Greg Bird going to Seattle. Perhaps alongside fallen All-Star righty Sonny Gray, whom the Mariners might turn into summer trade bait.
In any case, there are ways to get Diaz to New York that don't involve refitting Cano for pinstripes. With Diaz being one of baseball's great relievers, those certainly ought to interest the Yankees.
Data courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Brooks Baseball.