This past Sunday, the New York Mets re-signed closer Edwin Díaz to a five-year, $102 million deal — the largest reliever contract in MLB history. For reference, the previous all-time high in terms of average annual value was $18 million given to the White Sox’s Liam Hendriks prior to 2021. The previous record for the largest total contract for a reliever was set just this past offseason when the Angels signed Raisel Iglesias to a four-year, $58 million contract.
Essentially, Díaz just tore a hole through the fabric of the reliever market.
Does he deserve a record-breaking contract? Sure. After all, two of his last three seasons have seen him post an ERA-plus over 200, and he increased his strikeout-per-nine rate from 12.8 in 2021 to 17.1 in 2022. He’s also only 28 years old (will be 29 at the start of next season). Does he deserve this insane of a record-breaking contract? That’s arguable. There’s no denying the presence of an elite closer is extremely valuable in today’s MLB. Don’t believe me? Ask any Dodgers fan how they feel about that question.
Debate that topic all you want. “Is there any reality where a closer is worth more than $20 million a year?” That’s the question everyone is pondering. The question I’d like to bring up is “Who cares how much he’s getting paid? Does it really matter?”
Steve Cohen has recently hinted that he plans on spending $300 million in 2023. That would be almost $23 million more than the Dodgers spent on their Opening Day roster. It would also be nearly $50 million more than the Mets were spending on their Opening Day roster. Basically, he plans on spending a lot.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few years of baseball, it’s that the luxury tax doesn’t deter owners from spending. And with several players clamoring for the luxury tax threshold to be lifted even higher, there’s even more incentive for owners to spend away. It’s clear that Cohen doesn’t care about spending as long as he either likes what he’s getting, or believes he’ll get his money back.
The former doesn’t really come into effect for MLB free agency. However, the fact that Cohen once bought a statue for $141.3 million for a bronze sculpture presumably because he wanted it, shows that money is no issue. If he wants to see his Mets win, he’ll pull out all the stops. If he wants to spend more than $300 million because he wants a great player on his roster, he’ll do it.
Modern MLB has shown us two proven ways to consistently win games. You’re either a low-market team with a fantastic scouting and data department that builds your farm system steadily to the point where you eventually have a two-or-three-year window to win a title — like the Rays or Guardians — or you spend a ton of money to acquire all the best players and keep your window open forever. You can also mix the two like the Dodgers and Astros have, which is what the Dodgers have done and why they can afford to pay David Price, Trevor Bauer, Dustin May, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Craig Kimbrel oodles of cash while they either perform at the lowest levels of their careers or not at all.
The Mets have a decent farm system, usually ranking around the middle of the pack. However, that’s not enough to guarantee success. The Mets need to spend, and spend big.
With a net worth of over $17 billion, Cohen (pretty much) doesn’t care how much money he spends this offseason. $300 million is an absurd figure never before seen in MLB. With that mentality, it’s hard to assume anyone is getting overpaid on the Mets roster. In fact, overspending when you don’t care about money might actually be a good strategy because it sets a new standard for players of similar skill levels at the same position. You think Kenley Jansen won’t use this number as a measuring stick for his upcoming free agency? Absolutely he will. He won’t earn as much as Díaz. That’s out of the question, but the standard has risen and thus, all teams will have to spend more on relievers moving forward, and most other teams don’t want to spend more than they have to.
Díaz is an incredible reliever who provides an incredible fan experience. As long as the Mets have him, their bullpen should remain one of the best in the league. Yes, they’re giving him a lot of money, maybe too much, but I’m sure Cohen would tell you that having that role locked down and giving the fans five more years of Diaz is absolutely priceless. Cue the trumpets!
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