Mets land reliever Maton in trade with Rays

July 10th, 2024

NEW YORK -- For the past two weeks or so, as he witnessed bullpen meltdown after bullpen meltdown, Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns worked the phones. He initially engaged the Rays on reliever earlier this month, but the sides could not come to an agreement.

That changed with a phone call on Tuesday, when the Mets acquired Maton from the Rays for a player to be named or cash. With one conversation, a team in clear need of bullpen help added a reliever, fortifying a shaky relief corps well in advance of the July 30 Trade Deadline.

Mets get: RHP Phil Maton
Rays get: Cash or a player to be named later

To clear roster space, the Mets designated for assignment starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi.

It remains to be seen whether the acquisition of Maton will go down in history as a primary piece of New York’s Deadline strategy or an ancillary arm; even Stearns, when asked his opinion, answered that he didn’t know. All that’s clear is Maton is a pitcher who can help the Mets right now, which is what Stearns found so appealing to them.

“It’s a piece that we think today helps our bullpen and helps our team,” Stearns said before the Mets' 7-5 win over the Nationals. “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.”

Maton, 31, is in the midst of a middling season, producing a 4.58 ERA over 40 appearances for the Rays. But he has been sharper of late, with a 0.75 ERA over his last 11 appearances as he’s cleaned up the control issues that plagued him in the early season.

An eight-year veteran, Maton owns a career 4.28 ERA. Some of his best work has come in the postseason, as Maton has allowed just two runs over 21 2/3 lifetime playoff innings for Cleveland and Houston. The Mets expect him to join their bullpen either Wednesday or Thursday.

“This is someone that we targeted and talked to over the offseason,” Stearns said. “He had been a very consistent reliever pitching in a high-leverage environment 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.”

When Maton arrives in Queens later this week, he will help solidify a group that has lost Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and Nate Lavender to season-ending injuries, that is waiting out another lengthy injury to Sean Reid-Foley, and that has struggled to overcome Jake Diekman’s recent performance issues. The Mets entered Tuesday’s play ranked 16th in the Majors with a 4.13 bullpen ERA, but they were dead last in the Majors with a 9.41 mark since the start of July.

Maton won’t fix all of that by himself, but he certainly can help. And he may not wind up costing the Mets anything more than cash. The Mets are picking up the remainder of Maton’s $6.25 million salary, according to Stearns, which is why the Rays, who value financial flexibility, were willing to let him go. The right-hander’s deal includes a $7.75 million team option for 2025 with a $250,000 buyout.

“It’s an experienced arm who has pitched in the back end of bullpens in big games,” Stearns said. “He’s shown an ability with his stuff arsenal to attack both-handed hitters, and so we’re excited to bring him in.”