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Nine Digit Diaz: Edwin Diaz Signs Five-Year Contract to Stay with Mets


Mets superstar closer Edwin Diaz celebrating a save. (Photo: Associated Press)

Sound the trumpets! New York Mets fans rejoiced on Sunday when news broke of Edwin Diaz signing a record five year, $102 million contract to stay in Flushing.

It is the most valuable contract ever given to a relief pitcher, being both the first 9 digit contract ever signed by a reliever, and making Diaz the first relief pitcher to cross the $20 million per year threshold.

Prior to Diaz’s monster extension, the most expensive reliever contract belonged to the crosstown rival Yankees, who signed Aroldis Chapman to a five year, $86 million contract in 2016.

As that contract has expired this offseason, the second richest contract for a relief pitcher currently in Major League Baseball belongs to Rasiel Iglesias, who has a four year, $58 million contract. The second highest AAV (average annual value) belongs to the White Sox’s Liam Hendriks, whose three year, $54 million contract will net him an average of $18 million per year.

Diaz made his debut in 2016 with the Seattle Mariners, and immediately became the teams closer. He made his first All Star team in 2018, in a season where he finished eighth in Cy Young voting despite only pitching 73 innings. He had an ERA of 1.96, translating to an ERA+ (where 100 is always league average) of 208. He struck out 15.2 batters per nine innings, allowed only 5.0 hits per nine innings, and recorded a league leading 57 saves. After that season, he was traded to the Mets in the blockbuster that brought Robinson Cano to Queens.

Diaz struggled mightily in his first season for the Mets, posting an abysmal 5.59 ERA. He regularly heard boos from the fans and was a public enemy for fans. He bounced back in a shortened 2020, showing glimpses of his previous dominance. 2021 saw a solid, but unspectacular season from Diaz, posting a 3.45 ERA and picking up 32 saves.

However, his 2022 was something magical. In a season of new beginnings for the Mets, Diaz was perhaps the team's most valuable player. He was regularly called upon when it mattered most, and he delivered. His dominance on the field led to Timmy Trumpets and Blasterjaxx’s 2017 electronic song “Narco” to go viral, launching it into a new stratosphere of popularity.

Diaz pitched 62 innings to the tune of a 1.31 ERA, striking out a staggering 17.1 batters per nine inning, including 50.2% of the batters he faced the entire season, tying the second highest ever for a season of 40 innings or more. This led to a 0.90 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching), a 297 ERA+, and a WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitch) of 0.839.

There are many skeptics of Diaz’s contract, as the record breaking figure is largely unprecedented in Major League Baseball. It is only the sixth reliever contract to surpass $50 million. The other big earners were Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, Wade Davis and Raisal Iglesias.

Chapman inked his $86 million deal with the Yankees after the 2016 season. He was called up to the Reds in 2010, and quickly made a name for himself as a premiere closers with his blazing fastball. In 2016 he was dealt to the Yankees, pitching 31 games for them with a 2.01 ERA.

Aroldis Chapman was one of the six reliever contracts to pass $50 million, when he signed an $86 million contract with the Yankees after the 2016 season. (Photo: AP)

He was shipped off to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline, helping lead them to a World Series. He signed again with New York that offseason to a record setting deal. However, after signing that contract, he never relived his prior glory. He gave the Yankees a few All Star seasons, but he never posted an ERA below 2.21, which he had done in five separate seasons in Cincinnati. Mark Melancon inked a mega four year, $62 million contract with the Giants in 2016.

First debuting with the Yankees in 2009, Melancon had an up and down start to his career, first hitting his stride with Houston in 2011, posting a 2.78 ERA in 71 games. He struggled the next season in Boston, but came to Pittsburgh in 2013, where he truly began to blossom.

He spent three and a half seasons in Pittsburg, pitching 267 games with a 1.80 ERA, including leading the National League in saves in 2015 with 51, netting him the Hoffman Reliever Award for the National League. He spent the second half of 2016 with the Nationals where he continued his dominance from Pittsburg.

Once Melancon made the move to San Francisco, he struggled his first year, posting a 4.50 ERA. He improved over the next year and a half, eventually being dealt to Atlanta in 2019 after finishing his Giants career with a 3.67 ERA.

Kenley Jansen signed his deal with the Dodgers on January 10, 2017. He had been with the Dodgers since his big league career started in 2010, and up until that point, he had appeared in 409 games for the Dodgers, posting a 2.20 ERA, (1.93 FIP), with 13.9 strikeouts-per-nine, a 0.893 WHIP, and a 169 ERA+.

Jansen was a premiere reliever at this point, making his first All Star game in 2016, also winning the Hoffman Reliever Award for the National League. His 5 year, $80 million pact kept him in Los Angeles through 2021. He followed up his great 2016 with an electric 2017, posting a 1.32 ERA, finishing fifth in Cy Young voting, and again winning the Hoffman Reliever Award.

However, he was never able to sustain that level of dominance. This is not to say he wasn’t a great pitcher, as he was a key piece of many great Dodgers teams, and still a great closer, but he has yet to reproduce the historic numbers he posted in 2016 and 2017. He was an All Star in 2018, but from 2018 to 2020, he posted an ERA above three in each season, which he had never done before in his career. He ended up a key part of the 2020 Dodgers World Series team, pitching in eight games during their postseason run en route to a championship.

Wade Davis signed a three year, $52 million contract with the Colorado Rockies in 2018. Davis had an up-and-down start to his career, spending his first four seasons in Tampa, his first two full seasons as a starter, and his last as a full time reliever where he found success, posting a 2.43 ERA.

He moved on to Kansas City, and although struggled as a starter his first season, made the permanent move to the bullpen in 2014, beginning his prime. He posted ERAs of 1.00, 0.94, and 1.87, respectively, in his three relief seasons in Kansas City, one of which being the 2015 World Series Champion Royals, with Davis pitching in three games during the Fall Classic, besting the New York Mets. Davis went on to play one season for the Cubs, his third consecutive All Star season, before signing his mega deal with the Rockies, where he struggled mightily. In his three seasons in Colorado, Davis posted a 6.49 ERA, and was considered to be one of the worst contracts in baseball. Lastly, Raisel Iglesias signed a four year, $58 million deal with the Angels after the 2021 offseason.

Originally coming up with the Reds as a starter in 2015, Iglesias eventually made a name for himself as a dependable closer, finishing at least 55 games in three consecutive seasons, posting a 3.15 ERA over his six years in Cincinnati.

He was traded to the Angels prior to the 2021 season, where he finished 59 games for them in 2021 with a 2.57 ERA. He signed an extension in the offseason, and got off to a slow start, posting a 4.04 ERA in 39 games before being traded to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline.

After getting traded, Iglesias had one of the most dominant stretches of his career, appearing in 28 games, only giving up one earned run for a 0.34 ERA (an ERA+ of 1203). Iglesias only recorded one save for the Braves in 2022, as the aforementioned Jansen has been the teams closer, and Iglesias has been used as a setup man for Brian Snitker’s club. Of the other $50 million contracts, only Jensen and Chapman were younger than 30. Diaz is currently 28, as was Chapman at the time of his deal, with Jansen being 29 when he signed. Diaz has a full no trade clause, and his deal came with a $12 million signing bonus.

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