Mets acquire Phil Maton in trade with Rays to help bullpen

The Mets couldn’t wait any longer.

David Stearns, the team’s president of baseball operations, acknowledged Tuesday that the pool of available relievers will be greater closer to the July 30 trade deadline. But with the Mets’ bullpen threatening to sink the team beforehand, Stearns acted quickly, acquiring right-hander Phil Maton from the Rays for a player to be named later or for monetary considerations.

Maton, 31, has pitched to a 4.58 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 35 ¹/₃ innings this season. The Mets will pick up the remainder of the $6.25 million Maton is owed this season. His contract includes a club option for $7.75 million for 2025.

Phil Maton
Phil Maton goes to the Mets in a trade. Getty Images

Stearns said the Mets had their eye on Maton last offseason, before he signed with the Rays. The Mets and Rays began talking in the last two weeks, according to Stearns, about a trade for Maton, who previously pitched for the Astros.

“He’s a very consistent reliever who pitches in a high-leverage environment in big games in Houston,” Stearns said. “He started off a little rougher this year and we think some adjustments over the last month, throwing a few more strikes … have led to some better results and we’re happy to have him in our pen.”

The deal was completed a day after the Mets’ bullpen implosion on Monday in Pittsburgh, where Eric Orze and Adrian Houser combined to give up six runs in an 8-2 loss after starting pitcher Christian Scott was removed due to pitch count concerns.

After the loss, Brandon Nimmo was vocal about the Mets’ need to “lock in” wins. Stearns said he’s open to such input from Mets players and uses it as a “data point” when considering moves for the organization.

“[Maton] is a piece that we think helps our bullpen and our team today and we’re going to continue to look at what’s there and make moves that might make sense for us,” Stearns said. “And we’ll learn more about our team over the next few weeks as well.”

The Mets started 44-45 and trailed by 2 1/2 games in the race for the National League’s third wild card. According to Stearns, the team’s play between now and July 30 will determine which way the Mets move — as buyers or sellers — before the trade deadline.

Phil Maton has a 4.58 ERA this season.
Phil Maton has a 4.58 ERA this season.

“We’re in a position now where winning three in a row changes things in a pretty significant way,” Stearns said. “And losing three in a row seems to change things in a pretty significant way. That’s true for a couple of other teams as well. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to be patient as we continue to learn and evaluate the team.”

Maton was expected to join the Mets on Tuesday or Wednesday. To create room on the 40-man roster for Maton, left-hander Joey Lucchesi was designated for assignment.

The Mets are in need of help in the bullpen, with veterans Jake Diekman and Adam Ottavino underperforming their careers, Sean Reid-Foley on the injured list with a right shoulder impingement and Drew Smith expected to undergo a second Tommy John surgery. The Mets lost left-hander Brooks Raley to season-ending elbow surgery in May.

“I think we have a group that’s been decimated by injuries,” Stearns said. “We have a group that has some significant usage on certain guys that have pitched pretty well. And we have a group that has the talent to be pretty consistent. We’ve had some really good stretches with our bullpen this year and we’ve had some really tough stretches. But I do think we have guys that can get the job done and have played at points this year and certainly have done that over the course of their careers.”

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