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Mets’ David Stearns still undecided heading into trade deadline despite deal for Phil Maton, push from players



The Mets trade for Rays reliever Phil Maton on Tuesday was not an indication of things to come.

The Amazins acquired the right-hander for cash considerations to boost their faltering bullpen — 4.13 ERA on the season. However, this transaction was not David Stearns declaring the organization as buyers at the July 30 trade deadline.

“I think this [trade] is really a continuation of us trying to improve our team and supplement our team where we can,” Stearns said before Tuesday’s game against the Nationals at Citi Field. “We’re going to continue to learn about our team over the coming weeks and we’ll take that opportunity to determine what a full trade deadline strategy looks like. …

“I feel a lot better [about our team] than I did a month and a half ago. I think our group, our players, our coaches deserve a lot of credit for battling through what was a really tough May. … [They] put us in a spot where if we continue to play well, we’re a playoff-caliber team. That is certainly exciting and certainly prefer where we sit today and the type of question’s I’m getting today than what I got six weeks ago.”

To nobody’s surprise, the Mets believe in themselves. The once-struggling group has suddenly turned into a confident playoff contender after going 20-12 since the beginning of June.

Players have reached out to Stearns and owner Steve Cohen. They’ve urged Stearns and Cohen to add to what they have in the clubhouse instead of selling off pieces as they sit just 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot entering Tuesday night.

“One of the reasons I try to be around is so that I can hear from the players,” said Stearns. “I like hearing from our players, I think it’s important for me to get their perspective and certainly great for me to hear that our players and our veteran players think that we’re good enough to deserve to add.

“It’s a piece of information, it’s a data point. I certainly prefer to hear that than what the opposite could be. So it’s a piece of information and we try to weigh it along with all of the other information that we have.”

The Mets’ play over the coming weeks will be crucial to what their locker room looks like on July 31. The Nationals and Rockies — both under .500 — are their final two opponents before the All-Star break and how they enter the Midsummer Classic could move the needle in either direction of buyers or sellers.

“It’s both challenging and fun and frenetic and all of those things,” Stearns said. “I think we are in a spot where winning three in a row changes things in a very significant direction and losing three in a row seems to change things in a pretty significant direction. And that’s true for a couple of other teams as well, it’s one of the reasons why we’re going to try and be patient as we continue to learn and evaluate the team.”

WHAT MATON BRINGS TO THE TABLE

Maton has been on Stearns’ radar since the offseason — when he signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Rays — as the veteran will join an injury-riddled group that is in need of depth. The right-hander owns a 4.58 ERA in 40 games with Tampa Bay this season. However, the 31-year-old was an effective arm in the Astros’ bullpen the previous two seasons posting a 3.42 ERA from 2022-2023 while racking up postseason experience — 18 appearances.

“He has been a very consistent reliever pitching in a high-leverage environment in big games in Houston. Got off to a rougher start this season and we think some of the adjustments he’s made over the last month or so — throwing a few more strikes and usage adjustments — have led to some better results and we’re happy to add him to our pen,” Stearns said.

Maton is expected to join the club either Wednesday or Thursday.

The corresponding move for bringing Maton into the fold was designating Joey Lucchesi for assignment. The southpaw tossed just 4.1 innings allowing five runs for the Mets this season after making nine starts to a 2.89 ERA for the club in 2023.

“Anytime you’re adding a player to a full 40-man roster, you have to make a difficult decision,” said Stearns. “Joey has pitched well at times for this organization — specifically last year — and certainly our hope is to be able to retain him so we’ll see what happens.”

Lucchesi can return to the club should he go unclaimed on waivers.

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