What does Mets’ trade deadline pivot mean for players under contract for 2024?

BALTIMORE — About five minutes before Tuesday’s trade deadline, reliever Brooks Raley heard from his agent, who informed the left-hander that he’d be staying put with the ever-evolving Mets, the season’s biggest sellers.

For Raley, the news ended a week’s worth of wondering about whether he’d get traded.

“It was a sigh of relief,” Raley said.

In going beyond trading their impending free agents like top reliever David Robertson and dealing future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer — both would’ve been part of the team next season — the Mets subtracted from their 2024 odds and placed a bigger emphasis on 2025 and 2026. All-Star first baseman Pete Alonso stands out as the most important Mets player not under contract beyond 2024 and his situation will hang over the club for at least the next handful of months. But Alonso shares the predicament with the group of solid, veteran complementary players whose futures with the Mets also remain an interesting post-deadline topic.

What does the Mets making 2024 more of a “transition year,” as some around the club have called it, mean for players under contract only through next season?

While Alonso will enter his final year of arbitration, reliever Adam Ottavino, catcher Omar Narváez, starting pitcher José Quintana and Raley also hold contractual ties through just 2024. The Mets own a club option on Raley for next season. Ottavino and Narváez hold player options. Quintana’s two-year contract expires after 2024. All the players attracted varying levels of trade buzz.

It sounds like a decent shot at that continuing to be the case exists, at least during the offseason’s initial stages.

• Raley wants the Mets to pick up his club option (worth $6.5 million). Raley, 35, said in an interview with The Athletic on Friday, “I hope I am playing for the Mets next year.”

• Narváez told The Athletic on Friday that he would “probably come back next season.” That makes sense. As Narváez added, “It’d be hard to go into free agency without playing that many games.” The emergence of rookie Francisco Alvarez reduced Narváez’s role.  Narváez, 31, has played in only 24 games. Like any athlete, Narváez, an All-Star in 2021, would love to see more action. But his player option is worth $7 million.

• Ottavino said he intends to return to the Mets in 2024, as MLB.com first shared. A native New Yorker, Ottavino said he carries a sense of belonging with the Mets and believes the club has a solid shot at winning next season. Ottavino’s option checks in at $6.75 million, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to test the market, anyway, barring a surge of dominance over the final two months. In 44 innings, Ottavino owns a 3.48 ERA/4.70 FIP.

• Quintana’s situation doesn’t involve a contractual decision, but his name and resume generated plenty of buzz on the trade market, according to league sources. Before becoming a free agent in 2025, Quintana, 34, is owed $13 million in 2024.

José Quintana has a 3.57 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

Like Raley, Quintana said the trade deadline consumed some space in his mind leading up to Tuesday (Quintana actually pitched that day and fared well in his third start since returning from the injured list, lasting 6 2/3 innings and allowing three runs). Ditto for Narváez. How could it not? According to league sources, several teams checked in on each player, but Raley generated the most attention. Astros GM Dana Brown said Houston was among the clubs that talked to the Mets about acquiring Raley, who owns a 2.58 ERA and 3.92 FIP in 38 1/3 innings. Other clubs also maintained interest in Raley, who said in addition to liking the organization that his family dynamic — he lives on Long Island with his wife and children — contributed to the relief he felt upon hearing he wouldn’t get traded.

Some executives from rival teams wondered if Mets GM Billy Eppler was too occupied with the Verlander trade talks on Monday and Tuesday to get other potential deals done. The Mets also made three other trades involving rental players. After moving Mark Canha on Monday, they traded Tommy Pham with about an hour or so to go and then dealt reliever Dominic Leone with only a handful of minutes remaining before the deadline. On the other hand, Eppler said for days leading up to the deadline that the club’s asking price on several players would be high. It remains quite reasonable that the price simply wasn’t ever reached.

“I saw a number of things online — was Raley going to get traded? Was Otto going to get traded? They’re still with us and we’re glad they are,” Eppler said. “This was not some kind of liquidation or fire sale where everything must go. That’s not the circumstance. We wanted to have a strategy and capitalize on an opportunity should it present itself. But if it didn’t, we weren’t going to force the shot.

“That was something, in conversations with other clubs, I think when you move a player like Max or they see you move a player like David Robertson early on, when they see that, they start thinking everybody’s going to go and we’ll just wait until the last minute and pick pieces off the roster. We weren’t doing that. If the price wasn’t met, the player stayed. Simple. That was the strategy we came into the deadline with, and we just made the best of our circumstances.”

If the Mets intend to be relevant in 2024 as a potential playoff team — and owner Steve Cohen indicated that remains part of the plan by saying, “I’m competitive, OK? I’m opportunistic,” in response to questions about next year’s roster construction — then it makes sense to hold onto useful players. That’s especially true in the cases of Raley, Ottavino and Quintana, who again would profile as important role players.

First, the group must navigate the rest of 2023, which the team’s brass already acknowledged as a failure. Said Raley, “Nothing changes. You prepare the same way. You play the game the same way.”

After that? They each said they suspect Cohen to spend in a competitive way that fulfills the roster’s holes. As Raley put it, “There will be investments down the line. I’m not worried about any of that.”

For now, Raley won’t have to worry about a trade either — at least for the next few months.

“(Manager Buck Showalter) said it best; you want to be wanted,” Raley said. “But I’ve really enjoyed being in New York and playing for this team.”

(Top photo of Brooks Raley: John Jones / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top