Mets acquire Rays righty reliever Phil Maton via trade

ByAssociated Press ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 10, 2024

NEW YORK -- Seeking help for a struggling and depleted bullpen, the New York Mets acquired reliever Phil Maton from the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday for a player to be named or cash.

Maton was 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA and two saves in 40 appearances for the Rays this season, pitching better recently after a rough start. He struck out 30 and walked 18 in 35 1/3 innings.

The 31-year-old right-hander will join the Mets on Wednesday or Thursday, president of baseball operations David Stearns said before his team's series opener against Washington.

"We've had a variety of conversations, frankly, that have gone on for weeks now on the 'pen," Stearns said.

"This is someone that we targeted and talked to over the offseason. Has been a very consistent reliever pitching in high-leverage environments in big games in Houston. Got off to a rougher start this year and we think some of the adjustments he's made over the last month or so - throwing a few more strikes, some usage adjustments - have led to some better results and we're happy to bring him into our 'pen."

Maton has allowed one earned run over 12 innings in his past 11 games. Opponents are 3 for 29 (.103) against him in his past eight games after going 12 for 25 (.480) in the previous seven.

He gives the Mets an experienced arm to replenish a taxed and tattered bullpen that has lost veteran left-hander Brooks Raley and right-hander Drew Smith to season-ending elbow injuries. Right-handers Sean Reid-Foley and Shintaro Fujinami are also on the injured list but are expected back from shoulder issues.

The team obtained lefty reliever Matt Gage from the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash on Sunday and optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse. The deal for Maton came three weeks before baseball's July 30 trade deadline.

"We're going to continue to see what is out there and moves that may make sense for us and also continue to learn about our team in the coming weeks," Stearns said.

"I think where we are right now - with the confluence of injuries, workloads, a couple of guys scuffling - if we had the ability to add now, it certainly made sense."

Entering the day, New York had blown 16 of 37 save opportunities this season - and its relievers had an 8.16 ERA over the past 14 games. Because of injuries and roster decisions, only three of the eight relievers who opened the season with the Mets remain in their bullpen.

Star closer Edwin Díaz was on the IL from May 29 to June 11 with a right shoulder impingement and then returned Saturday from a 10-game suspension for violating baseball's prohibitions on sticky foreign substances.

"We've asked a lot of certain relievers, probably more than they've been asked previously in their careers. And we've also had a couple guys go through some rough patches here of late. You add that all together and it's been a challenge," Stearns said.

New York began the day a game under .500 but only 2 1/2 out of a National League playoff spot. Tampa Bay was two games below .500 and 5 1/2 out of the final AL wild card.

Maton has spent eight seasons in the majors, going 17-14 with a 4.28 ERA and four saves in 384 games for San Diego, Cleveland, Houston and Tampa Bay. He signed a $6.5 million, one-year contract with the Rays as a free agent in February that includes a $7.75 million club option for 2025 with a $250,000 buyout.

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said the trade will create an opportunity in Tampa Bay's bullpen for minor leaguer Manuel Rodríguez, who was 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA over nine appearances during a stint with the Rays earlier this season.

"It's not the way we envisioned it, both our team record at this point and Phil's contributions," Neander said. "Certainly he has been throwing the ball better lately. But what it came down to is it's a situation where we have Manny Rodríguez, who's coming the way he's been throwing the ball, and wanting to create an opportunity - a more sustained opportunity - for him with the major league club, and this was the path we chose to do it."

To make room for Maton on the Mets' 40-man roster, left-hander Joey Lucchesi was designated for assignment. Lucchesi made one big league start this year and was pitching at Triple-A.