There will be a new No. 1 atop the relief pitcher rankings after Edwin Diaz suffered a torn patellar tendon at the end of Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic matchup against the Dominican Republic Tuesday night. He closed out the win for Puerto Rico and seemed fine as his teammates crowded around him, but then he crumpled to the ground amid what looked to be a fairly restrained celebration. Video showed no impact or trauma to the knee, but the pain was severe enough that he was helped off the field in an emotional scene.
He'll need surgery and is expected to miss the entire season, reports confirmed Thursday, which is of course a devastating blow for the Mets and those who've already drafted Diaz.
For the majority who haven't drafted, though, it still has the effect of shaking up the relief pitcher landscape. There were already few reliables, to the extent, there is such a thing at a notoriously volatile position. Diaz was one of just nine who I felt comfortable penciling in for 30-plus saves, the others being Emmanuel Clase, Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Raisel Iglesias, Jordan Romano, Felix Bautista, Ryan Pressly and Kenley Jansen. As the best of them, Diaz was generally a fourth-round pick in 5x5 leagues, occasionally getting pulled all the way into Round 2 in deeper formats. Removing him from the player pool could drive up the cost of the eight others.
Clase is now the obvious standout at the position and perhaps more likely to go in Round 3 as a result. It's a premium I can't see myself paying, but when I see Iglesias and Bautista fly off the board in Round 6 and have to justify to myself why I can do without Jansen, I might feel differently. The urgency for that group will ramp up even more
And naturally, that urgency will trickle down to the lower tiers. Someone will likely go the extra mile for Camilo Doval or Clay Holmes. Someone will be more likely to look past Daniel Bard's warts or hold his breath on Paul Sewald. It's hard to say exactly what the impact will be on any one player in any one league, but when a big chunk of an already scarce asset is suddenly removed from the supply, I don't imagine anyone's response will be "well, I'll just go without."
Of course, the Mets will still be confronted with save situations, so it's not like Diaz's saves will simply evaporate. But will they all go to a singular pitcher, or will the Mets do what so many teams without a true closer do and play the matchups?
The former is obviously the preferable scenario for Fantasy, and in that scenario, I think Adam Ottavino would be the choice. Manager Buck Showalter actually had Diaz work the eighth and Ottavino the ninth a couple of times in the second half, so there's already some level of trust there. The 37-year-old has a spotty history but put up closer-caliber numbers last year.
If the Mets go by committee, David Robertson would likely factor in as well. He has more closing experience than Ottavino, including with the Cubs and Phillies last year, but may not be as bankable in the role. It would put the Mets' closer situation in a similar place as the Phillies', where Craig Kimbrel has the history but Seranthony Dominguez the higher level of trust right now. It would also mean neither Ottavino nor Robertson would be worth targeting within the first 200 picks, though both would generate some late-round interest.