Mets Acquire Veteran Reliever Phil Maton From Perennial AL East Contender

The New York Mets aren’t waving the white flag yet.

In a somewhat unusual trade between two teams on the fringes of the wild-card picture in their respective leagues, the Mets acquired veteran reliever Phil Maton for the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later.

The Mets are 44-45, just 2.5 games behind the San Diego Padres for the third and final Wild Card berth in the National League. The Rays are 44-46 and 5.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the third and final AL Wild Card berth.

Even though the teams have similar records entering play Tuesday, the Mets’ stance portends they will be buyers between now and the July 30 trade deadline until further notice.

To make room for Maton on their 40-man roster, the Mets designated pitcher Joey Lucchesi for assignment.

Maton, 31, has appeared in 40 games with the Rays this season, going 1-2 with two saves, a 4.58 earned-run average, and 18 walks and 30 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.

An eight-year veteran, Maton has appeared in 384 games with the San Diego Padres, Cleveland Guardians, Houston Astros, and Tampa Bay Rays, going 17-14 with four saves, a 4.28 ERA, 154 walks, and 428 strikeouts.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JULY 24: Phil Maton #88 of the Houston Astros hands the ball to manager Dusty Baker Jr. #12 in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on July…

Bob Levey/Getty Images

It’s the latest move in a series of bullpen adjustments for the suddenly aggressive Mets. Closer Edwin Diaz returned on July 6 after serving a suspension for having a foreign substance on the mound. They also acquired left-hander Matt Gage from the Dodgers on Sunday, though they promptly optioned him to the minor leagues.

Read more: Mets Manager Makes Big Announcement Regarding Edwin Diaz

The Mets were 22-33 on May 29 after getting swept at home by the Los Angeles Dodgers but went on an 18-6 tear over the next month to climb back into the NL playoff picture.

More significantly, ace Kodai Senga is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment this month. The right-hander, who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting a year ago, hasn’t pitched this season because of a shoulder injury.

The Mets’ position as deadline buyers has the potential to shake up several teams’ plans as the deadline approaches. Not only do the Mets bear the burden of expectations that come with the league’s highest payroll, but they also could conceivably afford to absorb the cost of another team’s onerous contract in any transaction.

Few teams are positioned as clear sellers; the Rays didn’t figure to be among them. They are also anticipating the return of some key pitchers, which might have granted them some flexibility in dealing from a position of strength.

Starter Jeffrey Springs is already on the rehab trail, and rotation mate Drew Rasmussen is expected to join him after the All-Star break. The two could bolster a rotation that recently turned to prospects Shane Baz and Taj Bradley in an effort to remain in contention.

The Rays recalled right-handed pitcher Manuel Rodriguez from Triple-A Durham to take Maton’s place on their active roster.