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Does Mets’ sudden deal predict an earlier trade deadline season in MLB?

In Sports
July 10, 2024
Does Mets’ sudden deal predict an earlier trade deadline season in MLB?

In the eyes of rival executives and scouts, David Stearns and the Mets were smart to jump at a buy-low trade for Tampa Bay reliever Phil Maton on Tuesday, who scouts say is generally throwing the ball well this year, save for a few poor outings.

For a team trying to make it to the trade deadline as buyers — and a banged-up bullpen threatening to undermine the entire project — it was important to improve now, and not wait until July 30.

“This is their chance to make some hay, this week against the Nationals and Rockies,” said one rival executive, noting that the Mets’ schedule becomes more difficult in late July when they face the Yankees, Twins and Braves.

Teams always have needs in early July, and some in the industry were surprised that the Mets found a trade partner to sell to them so early. It helps that it was small-market Tampa, and the Mets were willing to take on the rest of Maton’s $6.5 million salary immediately, rather than in a few weeks.

Does the deal, and the few other minor trades in the industry that preceded it, indicate that more trades in the industry will happen early this year? Maybe we won’t have to wait until the days, hours and minutes before the deadline?

My initial thought on that, from covering 16 trade deadlines, is that teams will act as they almost always do, staring each other down until the end of the month. But it was worth asking those currently engaged in trade discussions.

“We’ll find out,” Stearns said. “I think for now [the Maton trade is] probably a little bit of a unique circumstance. But we’ll find out. There is industry discussion going on right now, there’s no question. Whether that yields a more active mid-July trade season, I don’t know yet.”

A brief survey of rival execs on Tuesday evening brought a near-uniform response: That a few sellers could be ready to deal as soon as next week.

“What I’m hearing is that the teams who are going to sell, like the Marlins, are focused on the draft, but once that’s over with you could see activity,” said one high-ranking exec.

The draft is on July 16, one week from today. Next week also brings the All-Star break.

“Most of the GMs have said not until the All-Star break,” said another plugged-in evaluator.

In other words: Stay tuned starting late next week. The question for the Mets will be if they come out of the All-Star break close enough to playoff position to continue to act as buyers.

“They’re one of those teams, with Severino and Alonso, who could do well if they sell,” said an AL executive who has been in touch with the Mets in recent weeks. “But I think they’re going to go for it and buy.”

For what it’s worth: I think so, too, as long as the Mets play .500ish ball for the next few weeks.

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