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Mets Acquire Phil Maton From Rays

The Mets got a right-hander Phil Maton from the Rays, with announcements from both clubs. The Rays will get a player to be named later or cash considerations. Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said the club is picking up all of Maton’s remaining salary, according to’s Anthony DiComo on X. The Mets left fielder. Joey Lucchesi with the assignment of adding Maton to their 40-man roster. The Rays recalled the right-hander Manuel Rodríguez to take Maton’s place in their active lineup.

Maton, 31, signed with the Rays as a free agent in the offseason. The two sides agreed to a one-year deal with $6.5MM guaranteed, $6.25MM in salary and a $250K buyout with a $7.75MM 2025 club option.

So far, that deal hasn’t played out the way the Rays had hoped. Maton threw 35 1/3 innings, allowing 4.58 earned runs per nine. He struck out just 19.7% of the batters he faced while giving up walks at an 11.8% clip. His 49.5% ground ball rate is solid but he has also allowed six home runs on the year, a 16.2% rate per ball.

That performance is worse than what Maton has given in recent seasons. From 2020 to 2023, with Cleveland and Houston, he threw 220 innings with a 3.93 ERA, 27.8% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate and 40.4% ground ball. He’s also been good at avoiding damage, as his average exit velocity is among the league’s best in his career.

The Mets are essentially buying low in this deal, getting a veteran reliever without giving up any talent. Maybe that will change if PTBNL turns into a significant player, but it could effectively buy Maton.

The bullpen has been a major problem for the Mets this season. Their pitchers have a collective 4.16 ERA, which is near the bottom of the league. Several of their best linebackers were lost to season-ending elbow surgery, with Brooks Raley again Drew Smith both were done in a year. Sean Reid-Foley again Shintaro Fujinami are on the injured list due to shoulder problems.

Despite those bullpen performances, the club remained in the playoff race. They are currently 44-45, only 2.5 games back of the Padres for the last Wild Card spot. Last week it was reported that the club is approaching the deadline in terms of a buyer and could focus on bullpen help, this move is in line with that framework.

Obviously, the Mets will be focusing on Maton’s struggles this year in the minors and he has shown good signs of adjustment. After four outs on June 9, he was sitting at a 6.56 ERA. But last month, he allowed just one run in 12 innings, striking out 11 opponents while issuing just one walk. Even if he can’t fully maintain that level of dominance, it’s not unreasonable to expect something better than his season numbers.

For the Rays, they’ve been selling decently lately, though nothing that could hurt their chances of competing here in 2024. Aaron Civale for the Brewers, opportunity and cost savings. But that didn’t really reduce circulation as much as they were able to call it Shane Baz to take Civale’s turn. They are 44-46 and 5.5 games back of the playoffs, giving them a chance to move up.

Now they are able to spend more money, they can take out a player who has not done well in the season, which is the hottest game lately. The Rays are generally very good at acquiring or developing relievers and Rodríguez could fill in for Maton, as he has a 2.79 ERA in the majors this year and a 1.09 mark in Triple-A.

Speaking of that money, the Mets will be taking in more than the Rays are saving, due to the competitive balance tax. Maton is still owed about $2.74MM in salary, as well as a $250K buyout. The Rays will clean that off their books but the Mets pay the CBT for the third time and pass the fourth and final tax threshold. That means they pay a 110% tax on any other spending, so they’ll be paying around $6MM to get Maton on the team for the last few months of the season.

Under owner Steve Cohen, the Mets weren’t afraid to spend money and flexed their financial muscle to improve the club. The Mets have been on a roll since this time last year, looking to keep the big league club in contention without too much damage to young talent in the farm system and trying to avoid adding long-term costs to their budget. They still spend in the off-season but limit themselves to short-term deals and this move is a mid-season version of that.

The costs are not monetary but they may also cost Lucchesi. The lefty made one start for the major league team this year but was kept on option duty. He made 15 Triple-A starts this year with a 4.20 earned run average, a 17.9% strikeout rate, a 9.7% walk rate and a 53.6% ground ball rate.

Lucchesi is a decent depth option but he may have been on his way out of the lineup anyway. He is in his last option year so he won’t be able to choose next year. The Mets also had improved rotation depth as the season progressed. David Peterson again Kodai Senga each started the season on the injured list, but Peterson is back and Senga has just started rehab. The Mets noticed too Christian Scott jump from the little ones and grab the spinner.

The current rotation consists of Scott, Peterson, Luis Severino, Jose Quintana again Sean Manaeagoing with Senga on his way back. Jose Butto again Adrian Houser right now they’re in the big league bullpen but the rotation depth and the club are likely to be looked at Taylor Megill in a career of your choice. That’s enough for the club to consider trading someone from that club while still trying to compete here in 2024, as the Rays did with the aforementioned Civale deal.

Whether that came to fruition or not, Lucchesi was largely buried in that image rotation. The Mets released him from the roster and now have five days to see if they can get the job done. DFA limbo can last up to a week, but the withdrawal process takes 48 hours.

The lefty has a certain record as a major league active starter, as he posted an ERA over 4.00 with the Padres in 2018 and 2019, logging 130 or more innings in both seasons. He then struggled in 2020 and was traded to the Mets as a part of the game Joe Musgrove trade in January of 2021. He required Tommy John surgery that summer and missed most of the 2021-2022 season. He returned to the club last year and his results were the same as this year. He was kept mostly in discretionary assignment and posted a 4.74 ERA in Triple-A.

Perhaps a club in need of starting depth will take a trip on Lucchesi as he is optioned for the remainder of the year and could be retained this season through settlement. But that being said, he will be out of options next year and will have less flexibility going forward. If he were to waive the waiver, he could refuse the assignment altogether for having more than three years of service. But with him under five years old, opting for free agency would mean walking away from his entire $1.65MM salary. In that event, he would likely accept an outright assignment and stick with the Mets as undrafted depth.

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