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Mets acquire Phil Mattone in deal with Rays to help relief bullpen

Mets acquire Phil Mattone in deal with Rays to help relief bullpen

The Mets couldn’t wait any longer.

The team’s president of baseball operations, David Stearns, acknowledged Tuesday that the supply of available relief players will be greater as the July 30 trade deadline approaches. But with the Mets’ relief bullpen in danger of overwhelming the team beforehand, Stearns moved quickly to acquire right-handed pitcher Phil Maton from the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Maton, 31, has a 4.58 batting average in 40 games this season with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. The Mets are picking up the rest of the $6.25 million Maton is owed this season. His contract includes a club option through 2025 worth $7.75 million.

Phil Maton heads to Mets in trade. Getty Images

Stearns said the Mets were targeting Maton in the offseason before he signed with the Rays. According to Stearns, the Mets and Rays have been talking over the past two weeks about a trade for Maton, who previously played for the Astros.

“He’s been a very consistent player playing in a high-stakes environment in the big games in Houston,” Stearns said. “He’s had a rough start this year and we think some of the adjustments he’s made over the last month or so, throwing more strikes … has led to some better results and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

The deal was finalized a day after the Mets’ final bullpen collapsed Monday in Pittsburgh, with Eric Ohrs and Adrian Hauser combining to allow six runs in an 8-2 loss after starter Christian Scott was ruled out due to concerns about pitch count.

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After the loss, Brandon Nimmo was vocal about the Mets needing to “catch” wins. Stearns said he was open to such input from Mets players and used it as a “data point” in considering moves for the organization.

“[Maton] “It’s a piece that we think helps our barn and helps our team today and we’ll continue to see what’s out there and what moves might make sense for us,” Stearns said. “And we’ll also continue to get to know our team in the coming weeks.”

The Mets are 44-45 and 2 1/2 games behind their nearest rivals in the race for the National League’s third wild card spot. According to Stearns, the team’s performance between now and July 30 will determine which direction the Mets go before the trade deadline.

Phil Maton has a 4.58 ERA this season.
Phil Maton has a 4.58 ERA this season. Zoompress.com

“We’re at a point now where winning three games in a row changes things in a very significant direction,” Stearns said. “Losing three games in a row seems to change things in a very significant direction. That’s true for a couple of other teams as well. That’s one of the reasons we have to be patient as we continue to learn and evaluate the team.”

Maton was expected to join the Mets either Tuesday or Wednesday. To make room for Maton on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Joey Lucchesi was designated for assignment.

The Mets needed help in the relief bullpen after veterans Jake Diekman and Adam Ottavino performed below their career levels, with Sean Reed-Foley on the injured list with a right shoulder injury and Drew Smith likely to undergo a second Tommy John surgery. The Mets also lost left fielder Brooks Raleigh to elbow surgery in May.

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“I think we have a group of players who have been down with injuries,” Stearns said. “We have a group of players who are very capable and have performed well. We have a group of players who have the talent to be at that level. We’ve had some really good stretches throughout the year with our team, and we’ve had some really tough stretches. But I think we have players who can get the job done at times this year, and certainly throughout their careers.”