When New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz injured his knee during the World Baseball Classic, there was a slim chance he might be able to return for the later part of the season to help the Mets down the stretch, and maybe even into the postseason.
But now, six months after Diaz tore his patellar tendon while celebrating a win for Puerto Rico in the WBC, the Mets don't believe it's worth it to get Diaz ramped back up to pitch.
"It's too risky," Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said via MLB.com. "I'm not as concerned about the pitching. It's more about fielding and a ball getting hit back at him and he has to get out of the way, and really it's about covering first base and covering a bunt. I have very little concern about him pitching at the moment."
The elephant in the room here is that the Mets have been abysmal this season, which likely impacted their decision to keep Diaz off the mound. It's risky to have him pitch again because there's simply nothing for the Mets to play for. They're 26 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and eight games out of the third wild-card spot. And with a 70-80 record, they're not even bad enough to snag one of the top five picks in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Hefner essentially admitted that if the Mets were competitive, Diaz would likely be pitching right now.
"If we were in a different situation as a team, we definitely could have pushed to the point where he'd probably be pitching in games right now," Hefner said. "Obviously you saw with our team this year, he's an integral part. We can't do anything to risk next year by reinjuring an already unprecedented injury. That's where we're at right now."
The Mets have a lot to do over the coming offseason after flushing the largest payroll in baseball (over $360 million) directly down the toilet. But with Diaz having essentially a full year to heal and rehab his knee, one thing they won't have to worry about for 2024 is a closer.