Five weeks ago I was convinced that selling low on Edwin Diaz at the trade deadline would have been a mistake for the Mets, largely because the year-to-year volatility of relievers suggested that he could have a big bounce-back season in 2020.
However, I think there's a point where the scar tissue from big-stage failure supersedes more measurable factors, and that seems to apply to Diaz at this point, after his rock-bottom moment in Tuesday night's unfathomable loss to the Nationals.
Clearly he's not fixed, no matter what the Mets had been saying, mostly because he has zero command of his fastball, and that's not going to change over the final few weeks of this season.
Perhaps most significant, that lack of command is almost certainly due at least partly to the inability to deal with the pressure of closing in the glare of the New York spotlight, which means it's not a simple matter of fixing Diaz's delivery or re-setting mentally next season.
In short, it's really starting to feel as if there's some Sonny Gray in Diaz. And much like Brian Cashman did with the Yankees, Brodie Van Wagenen should cut his losses this winter and move on from the guy he targeted in his first big trade as GM.
After all, how can you possibly sell the fan base on the idea of starting next season with both Jeurys Familia and Diaz at the back of the bullpen after they've combined to all but torpedo the 2019 season?
And while the Mets can't trade Familia unless they're willing to eat most of the $23.3 million he's owed over the next two seasons, they could deal Diaz and at least get something in return.
"He still has value," one executive from another big-market team told me on Wednesday. "I could see a small-market team doing what Cincinnati did. They took a chance on Sonny Gray and it's paid off. I could see a team hoping that getting Diaz out of the high-pressure setting would help get him back on track."
"Nobody's giving up a Jarred Kelenic for him, but the Mets could get something for him."
Nope, the exec couldn't resist taking a jab, lighthearted or otherwise, at Van Wagenen for trading away the much-heralded Kelenic in the deal for Diaz and Robinson Cano.
Yet the mention of Kelenic is pertinent as well. Van Wagenen no doubt desperately wants his big trade to work out, so if he decides to bring back Diaz next season, it's fair to ask whether the GM's ego would be the deciding factor.
Cashman had no problem essentially admitting he was wrong about Gray, who always seemed uncomfortable with the New York media scrutiny, and traded him for an unheralded prospect, Shed Long, as well as the No. 38 pick in last year's amateur draft.
Would that be enough for Van Wagenen if he were to consider trading Diaz?
"At some point," another team executive said, "it's not so much about what you get in a deal like that -- it's about addition by subtraction. If the Mets believe this is more about him handling everything that comes with performing in New York than it is about his mechanics or something else, you take what you can get and move on.
"If you come to that conclusion you should be able to live with it if he becomes dominant again. It's a gamble either way but if you bring him back and he's blowing games again, now you have a really difficult situation."
That raises the question, again, of what's wrong with Diaz. The Mets have treated him carefully all season at least partly over concern about a tender elbow, but it doesn't seem to be affecting his stuff, considering that he was throwing 100 mph Tuesday night with a slider that had some bite.
However, as has often been the case, he made critical mistakes with location, leaving fastballs in nitro-zone locations to both Ryan Zimmerman -- who wants to extend his arms and hit the ball to the opposite field, and Kurt Suzuki -- who stands close to the plate and tries to pull everything.
And then there's Diaz's apparent lack of feel for pitch selection. On MLB Network, Mark DeRosa did an insightful breakdown making that point, showing how vulnerable Suzuki looked against Diaz's slider Tuesday night, as opposed to how locked-in his swings were against the fastball, all leading to three straight fastballs with the count at 3-2 and eventually the game-winning home run.
"You have to read swings," DeRosa said, practically speaking to Diaz. "If you're watching the AB, you know Kurt Suzuki is not on your slider. Don't tell me the heater's the option. He fumbles at four of your sliders down and away, and you allow him to beat you to the spot on three heaters back-to-back."
DeRosa then showed Diaz getting beat earlier in the season on home runs by Freddie Freeman and Victor Robles, one on a fastball, one on a slider, again pointing out that each player was on that pitch earlier in the at-bat.
"The stuff is there," DeRosa said. "It's about pitch selection and reading swings."
I asked a scout about that, and he agreed -- to a point.
"There are a lot of pitchers who don't read swings," the scout said. "Some of that's on the catcher too. But to me the bigger issue is the lack of command. This season he has left way too many pitches, with both the fastball and the slider, in the middle of the plate.
"When he makes pitches he has been dominant. But a big part of that is controlling your emotions with the pressure on, and it's hard not to think that's the biggest issue. In big spots he tends to rush his delivery, his arm slot varies and he's all over the place. That's not something you can fix in a bullpen session."
More and more, in fact, the Mets need to be asking themselves: can it be fixed at all?