Mets' Edwin Diaz: 'The No. 1 priority for me and my family was to stay in New York'

Apr 29, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts to his part in the combined no-hitter in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts to his part in the combined no-hitter in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports / Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

Mets closer Edwin Diaz spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon for the first time since signing his record-setting five-year, $102 million contract in early November.

Speaking via Zoom, Diaz had a smile on his face as he explained that he was “really happy” to be back in New York. Diaz said he has fallen in love with not just the Mets as an organization, but the city of New York as a whole.

The No. 1 priority for me and my family was to stay in New York because we love the city of New York, we love the team, the organization. They treat us great. We feel [like] part of the family,” Diaz said. “I talked to Billy (Eppler) and Steve (Cohen) after the season and I let them know that I want to stay here, I want to come back, and they appreciated that and when the World Series started we started talking and we reached a deal really quick because we knew what we wanted and we were really pleased about the deal."

The 28-year-old had a difficult first season as a Met in 2019 following his trade from the Seattle Mariners, pitching to a 5.59 ERA. But he’s been nearly unhittable in the three seasons since, posting a 2.27 ERA with 70 saves and 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings. His 2022 season was his most dominant to date, as his ERA shrunk to 1.31 and his Ks per nine ballooned to a whopping 17.1.

And while those numbers made him the clear top reliever on the free agent market, Diaz knew that he wanted to be back in a Mets uniform, and the club wanted the same thing, making negotiations move very quickly.

“Couple of weeks after the season ended … I can say that at the start of the World Series we started talking and we started engaging each part, and everything came quickly,” Diaz said, “They knew what we wanted, and we knew what they wanted, and everything went smooth and both sides were really pleased about the deal.

“In every moment everything was clear,” he added. “We knew what they wanted and they knew what we wanted. And when the last conversation came, the deal was done because we felt like that was a great deal for us.”

Not only was this a great deal for Diaz and the Mets, but by signing the richest contract ever for a reliever, Diaz has reset the market for fellow relievers around the game.

“This means a lot because I’m thinking I can help other guys coming behind me,” he explained. “So setting that deal, I feel really happy because that will help all the guys coming behind me and I keep pushing the value of the reliever up, so I feel really happy for that.”

By re-signing Diaz, the Mets maintain the most electric closer in the game, which will continue to make the back end of the bullpen a nightmare for opponents. But the rest of that bullpen is a big question mark, with Drew Smith being the only other high-leverage reliever still under contract and Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, and Trevor May all free agents (lefty Joely Rodriguez has already signed a new deal with the Boston Red Sox).

Still, Diaz is confident in what Eppler and company can do to rebuild the pen.

“I’m back, I know all those guys are free agents but I know Billy and the staff will do the best to get a great bullpen, to have a great bullpen like we had this season,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what they do to bring another great bullpen back.”