SAN DIEGO — The Mets acquired lefthanded reliever Brooks Raley in a trade with the Rays and selected righthander Zach Greene from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft on Wednesday, the first pair of what might be several bullpen-related moves the rest of the offseason.
Headed to Tampa Bay in that deal: minor-league pitcher Keyshawn Askew.
Raley, 34, immediately becomes one of the Mets’ best late-inning options in front of closer Edwin Diaz heading into 2023. He had six saves and 25 holds for the Rays in 2022, during which he managed career-highs in ERA (2.68), games (60), innings (53 2/3). And he was particularly good against lefthanded hitters, who had a .155/.200/.282 slash line against him.
“He’s got a well-above-average slider,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “He knows what he’s doing, and he can pitch in some big spots. That was a big add for us at the back end.”
With the Rays, Raley threw his slider more often than any other pitch — more than one out of every three offerings — but also used a sinker, changeup and cutter. It is unusual for a reliever to throw four pitches.
His 2023 salary, as calculated for luxury-tax purposes, is $5 million. The Mets’ payroll is pushing $300 million.
Before last season, Raley was a journeyman who had spent time with the Cubs, Twins, Angels, Reds and Astros with minimal success. He also pitched in Korea from 2015-19, then converted to being a full-time reliever upon returning stateside.
The risk with any reliever — especially one who just had a career year — is regression.
“I do think it is sustainable,” Eppler said of Raley’s breakout season.
Askew, 22, is a side-arming lefthander. The Mets picked him in the 10th round in the 2021 Draft. He had a 2.44 ERA (and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings) across 66 1/3 innings in Single-A last season.
This deal makes three established relievers locked into the Mets’ bullpen: Diaz, Raley and Drew Smith.
Greene, 26, is a wild card in the looming spring training relief jobs competition. He is 26 and had a 3.42 ERA in Triple-A last season.
“He’s got a very interesting fastball,” Eppler said. “The way that it plays adds an element of perceived velocity to the hitter, so it’s not an exact ‘look at the radar gun and judge the fastball that way.’ Let the hitters tell you if it’s a good fastball or not. It’s got some very interesting characteristics to it. That and a pretty strong slider.”
Under the terms of the Rule 5 draft, the Mets paid the Yankees $100,000 for Greene. They will have to carry him on the active roster (or the injured list) for the entire 2023 season or risk losing him.
“He’s obviously got a real opportunity to make this team, otherwise we wouldn’t have selected him,” Eppler said. “The rest will be up to him in spring training.”