Examining an Edwin Diaz, Boston Red Sox Pairing

The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching, and Edwin Diaz is one of the biggest names on the market. The New York Mets closer has struggled in 2019 but has been one of the elite closers in baseball throughout the majority of his career. The Mets are selling, and the Red Sox are one of the top suitors for his services. Should the Sox make the trade, or are they better off looking for a cheaper trade partner?

How Edwin Diaz Could Fit With Boston Red Sox

Looking at his standard numbers, you’d think Edwin Diaz was having a terrible season. Through his first 44 appearances, Diaz has pitched just 40 innings to the tune of an ugly 4.95 ERA. This obviously isn’t a good number, and might suggest that the Red Sox should look elsewhere when trying to find reliever help.

However, the underlying numbers tell a more encouraging story. Diaz ugly ERA is artificially inflated by an ridiculously unlucky .398 BABIP. BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is largely luck based and has nothing to do with skill. The league average is close to .300, so Diaz should regress to the mean as the season goes on. If anything, a trade would improve his luck, as the Mets have arguably the worst defensive infield in baseball.

FIP is essentially ERA with batted ball luck taken out of the equation. Studies have proven that FIP is more predictive of future success than ERA, so it’s encouraging to Diaz’ FIP at 3.83. This number isn’t elite by any means, but it’s still a full point better than his ERA. Additionally, Diaz’ xFIP (FIP adjusted to a league-average home run rate) is all the way down at 3.24. Diaz can still strike guys out, as evidenced by his 13.73 K/9.

All this is to say that Edwin Diaz is still good. While he might not ever repeat his ridiculously good 2018 (1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP), he still has the stuff to be an elite major league reliever. The Red Sox certainly need one of those if they’re to compete for a World Series, and Diaz is more than just a rental. The former third-round pick is under team control until 2023, which means the Red Sox won’t need to worry about Diaz leaving for greener pastures.

What the Red Sox Could Give

The Red Sox don’t have the best farm system in the league, but it’s a lot better than it was last year. As of this posting, the Red Sox have three of Baseball America’s Top-100 prospects in Triston Casas, Bryan Mata, and Bobby Dalbec. Additionally, Jarren Duran just missed the cut and is probably somewhere around 110 on their list.

Of these four, the only one completely off the table is Bryan Mata. Mata isn’t a perfect prospect, but he’s easily the best pitcher in the system. As of this posting, the 20-year old has a 4.21 ERA and a 3.19 FIP through five starts with AA Portland. He’s well ahead of his development schedule and looks like he belongs against notably older competition. Developing starting pitching is hard, but Mata has the best chance of anyone to develop into an MLB starter.

This leaves Casas, Dalbec, and Duran as the three top prospects left on the table. Duran probably isn’t good enough to headline a trade, so let’s look exclusively at Casas and Dalbec. Triston Casas missed the majority of his rookie season to injury but has destroyed minor league pitching throughout 2019. So far on the season, Casas owns an impressive .252/.346/.486 slash line with a 136 wRC+ in 390 plate appearances. While his underwhelming defense profiles as a first baseman, he has an MLB-caliber bat.

Bobby Dalbec has the highest ceiling of just about anyone in the farm system, but he also has a low floor. The third baseman has ridiculous power and can hit it further than just about anyone in the majors or minors. However, he struggles to make consistent contact and is a true “three-outcome” guy. He’ll either strike out (25.2% rate), walk (15.7% rate), or knock it out of the park. His .230 batting average shows he doesn’t get many singles or doubles, but his .455 slugging percentage and 141 wRC+ shows he’s able to make up for it with his raw power.

Who Should Go

Truthfully, giving up Casas for Diaz just feels like overspending. Diaz is an elite reliever and he should return to form, but a reliever can only move the needle so much. Casas has a chance to be a true impact bat, which is significantly more valuable than one single reliever. He’s still a long ways from the majors, but Casas is too good to let go.

The same cannot be said for Dalbec. While he might have a nice major league future, there’s a very real chance he doesn’t pan out. Even if he does, he could peak with a Mike Napoli-esque career. Players like that are fairly easy to find, especially when Dalbec is blocked in the majors by Rafael Devers. Dalbec alone probably wouldn’t get it done, so the Sox might have to throw in another prospect like Nick Decker to seal the deal. No matter who the added piece is, it’s well worth it for the Red Sox.

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Dave Latham

Engineer by day, sportswriter by night. Follow me @DLPatsThoughts

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