The Mets bringing back Jeurys Familia on a three-year, $30 million deal feels at first like a sidestep, as opposed to an upgrade.
The reality is that he's a known commodity coming off five-consecutive successful seasons, and he's a veteran reliever with experience pitching in high-leverage situations under the bright lights and pressure of New York City.
The thing is, the above credentials may not be where he provides the most value to the Mets.
Earlier this month, the Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen traded for last year's saves leader, Edwin Diaz, who locked down 57 games with a 1.96 ERA for the Mariners.
Diaz, 24, spent the two seasons also pitching for the Mariners, who played .520 baseball never finishing above second place in the tucked-away, quaint, northwestern city of Seattle.
He will face an entirely different animal in 2019.
I'm told the Mariners have roughly 3-4 reporters and a photographer or two following them every day at their Peoria Sports Complex during Spring Training.
The quietest day in St. Lucie will include close to a dozen reporters, multiple local and national columnists, five to six photographers, nearly all of SNY, a local TV crew or two, and -- depending on who's in camp -- up to 100 fans roaming the back fields cheering and booing and begging for autographs.
In season, while Diaz's Mariners played just over .500, the Mets drew roughly one million more fans to Citi Field, despite winning less than 80 games two of those three seasons. And, even during a lost season, on any given day, the media contingent following the Mets is close to three times what Diaz had seen in Seattle, let alone when pitching in late September or in the postseason surrounded by hungry, paranoid, ecstatic Mets fans.
The point is, Familia understands the pressure. He's pitched in it. He's succeeded in it. He's failed in it. And, he's had to brush it off, breathe in, breathe out, face the media, face the fans and get back on the mound the next night no questions asked...
"Diaz is going to be our closer," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said earlier this week. "He had great success in that role last year. I would hate to take him out of that role. He's comfortable. We've seen the success. We have a lot of confidence in some of our other guys that can come in in high-leverage situations and get outs."
That said, the Mets have no idea how Diaz will handle the role...
However, by signing Familia, the Mets help protect their investment in Diaz. The young pitcher can put himself in Familia's pocket so the seven-year veteran, who's been part of the Mets organization since he was 17, can prepare him and guide him through the unique and choppy waters he will undoubtedly experience.
Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball. He reinvented what it meant to be a big-game closer. However, in his second season, when transitioning to being a full-time reliever being used as a set-up man, it was veteran Yankees closer John Wetteland who helped prepare and guide Mo through the unique and choppy waters he was about to experience every day for the next 16 years.
"I was attached to him like a leech,'' Rivera said of Wetteland during his retirement tour through Texas in 2013. "I learned a lot from him, especially in the playoffs."
In addition to helping Rivera understand how to handle life on the mound, Wetteland also advised his protege on how to prepare his body and mind, focus his energy and be mentally tough in both good and bad times.
This type of mentorship is what the Mets are hoping Familia can do for Diaz, and it's one of many reasons why Van Wagenen signed him, according to people close to the situation.
It just so happens Diaz's mentor comes with 124 saves in a Mets uniform, in which he's pitched in 343 games, including 14 post-season series. Together, I think they're going to be fine...
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Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!