The Rays are on the verge of adding a significant weapon to their bullpen, one who is battle-tested in the month of October.
The Rays are finalizing a deal with free-agent reliever Phil Maton, a source has told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The Rays have not commented on the deal.
The right-handed Maton had a 3.00 ERA in 68 appearances for the Astros in 2023 with a 74-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
A vital part of Houston’s bullpen the last three seasons, Maton was part of the bridge to closer Ryan Pressly.
It remains to be seen exactly how Maton will fit into a Tampa Bay bullpen that includes Pete Fairbanks, who saved 25 games last season. The Rays are often comfortable giving multiple pitchers save opportunities and Maton has the ability and track record to join that mix.
Not only has the 30-year-old right-hander posted a 3.67 ERA in 162 relief appearances for Houston in the regular season, Maton has also allowed just one run in 18 postseason outings, all while averaging about 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He was particularly effective in 2023, combining high swing-and-miss, strikeout and chase rates with very low exit velocities and hard-hit rates allowed.
The key to Maton's success was his pair of breaking balls: a high-spin curveball that averaged an elite 3,156 rpm, and a "sweeper" slider that averaged 19 inches of horizontal break. Those two pitches accounted for nearly two-thirds of Maton's total usage, and for the first time, his curveball, not his fastball, was his most-used pitch.
Maton will help fill the void left by Robert Stephenson, who recently signed with the Angels.
In 2023, the Tampa Bay bullpen ranked second in MLB with a 1.19 WHIP, tied for second with a .223 opponents' batting average and finished fourth in strikeouts (657).
Jason Adam, Colin Poche and Shawn Armstrong will join Fairbanks and Maton as relievers that manager Kevin Cash will look to for high-leverage outs.
Maton, who will turn 31 next month, was picked in the 20th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Padres. He has pitched in 344 games over seven Major League seasons with the Padres, Guardians and Astros. He pitched in 12 games during the 2021 postseason when Houston won the ALCS but fell to the Braves in the World Series.