Rays deal Maton to make room for hard-throwing Rodríguez

July 9th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Less than a week after trading Aaron Civale to the Brewers, the Rays parted with another recent pitching acquisition, dealing veteran reliever to the Mets.

The Rays announced the trade before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Yankees at Tropicana Field. The club will receive cash or a player to be named later in return. Tampa Bay recalled right-hander Manuel Rodríguez from Triple-A Durham to take Maton’s spot in the bullpen.

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said the desire to get Rodríguez in the big league bullpen motivated the move.

“With Manny, we just felt like this is someone who’s throwing like a really good Major League reliever that’s in Triple-A. We want to do the best we can to win today’s game, tomorrow’s game,” Neander said. “Just felt this was what was best for the club in the near term to give us the best chance.”

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

Early in Spring Training, the Rays signed the 31-year-old Maton to a one-year deal with a club option for 2025. His contract was for $6.25 million this season, with a $7.75 million option (or $250,000 buyout) next year. That gave Maton the fifth-highest salary on the Rays’ roster this season behind Zach Eflin, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz.

The Rays were excited to land Maton after seeing him put together a strong season with the Astros last year, believing they were adding an experienced arm capable of serving as a bridge to the back end of their bullpen. But he surprisingly struggled and wound up in a lower-leverage role as he posted a 4.58 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 35 1/3 innings over 40 appearances for Tampa Bay.

Maton has pitched better lately, recording a 0.75 ERA with a save, 11 strikeouts, one walk and a .150/.191/.250 opponents’ slash line in 12 innings over his past 11 outings.

“Not the way we envisioned it, both our team’s record at this point and Phil’s contributions. Certainly he’s been throwing the ball better lately,” Neander said. “But when it came down to it, it’s a situation where we have Manny Rodríguez. … The way he’s been throwing the ball, wanted to create a more sustained opportunity for him with the Major League club, and this was the path we chose to do it.”

But the Rays have already shown a willingness to deal from their depth, sending out Civale for shortstop prospect Gregory Barrios last week to make room for the promotion of starter Shane Baz.

In much the same way, shipping out Maton to a Mets team in great need of bullpen help will free the Rays of some salary commitments and make room for Rodríguez, the hard-throwing right-hander who has been dominant for Durham so far this season.

The Rays entered their final homestand before the All-Star break two games under .500 at 44-46, 5 1/2 games out of the final American League Wild Card spot, with one of the Majors’ worst run differentials. It’s possible they could be more active leading up to the July 30 Trade Deadline, but Neander said trading Civale and Maton was more about the players who replaced them.

“Without Shane and without Manny, we probably don’t make these decisions right now,” Neander said.

Rodríguez posted a 2.79 ERA in nine appearances for Tampa Bay earlier this season, and he has a 1.10 ERA while holding opponents to a .193/.254/.263 slash line in 15 appearances since returning to Triple-A.

“He’s throwing the ball as well as he ever has right now. Would like to have that up here,” Neander said. “It’s upper 90s, sinker, slider with command right now that we believe belongs here. This was a way to create the space.”