WASHINGTON — Instead of the big splash, the Mets opted for a couple of ripple-inducing smaller moves before the trade deadline Tuesday evening, acquiring first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf from the Giants and righthanded reliever Mychal Givens from the Cubs — and critically, in their view, keeping all of their best prospects.
The Mets sent J.D. Davis and a trio of minor-league pitchers to San Francisco, plus another lower-minors pitcher to Chicago.
Combined with the acquisitions late last month of designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach and backup outfielder Tyler Naquin, the Mets opted to try to upgrade their roster via unflashy moves that they nonetheless think improve their chances of winning the World Series.
They had the option of making bigger/additional moves, general manager Billy Eppler said, including for a catcher and a lefthanded reliever, but decided against it for the sake of protecting prospect inventory.
“Some of that undisciplined thinking can lead to years of mediocrity and doing the same thing over and over and over again,” Eppler said. “One of the things we've talked about here is just really trying to maintain that organizational discipline, to crush any urge to make a snap or an impulsive decision and give up large amounts of future World Series odds or expectation in exchange for just some marginal gains right now.”
The Mets’ top NL East competition was aggressive. Second-place Atlanta traded for Raisel Iglesias, Robbie Grossman, Jake Odorizzi and Ehire Adrianza. Third-place Philadelphia brought in Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson and Brandon Marsh.
“I tend to really focus on us,” Eppler said.
Ruf, who is under contract through 2023 with a team option for 2024, will slot in as the righthanded-hitting portion of the Mets’ DH platoon, replacing Davis. He and the lefthanded-hitting Vogelbach will be the new combo in a spot initially occupied this season by the trio of Davis, Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano.
“We feel we've been able to really add, using two roster spots, an impact bat,” Eppler said.
Limited defensively, the 36-year-old Ruf has been about a league-average hitter in 2022. But he hits lefthanded pitchers well, including a .252 average, .364 OBP and .523 slugging percentage this year.
Manager Buck Showalter said: “[Ruf has] quite a background and a history of handling lefthanded pitching.
Davis, 29, has had a down year in part because of lessened strength in his left hand following surgery last October. His .238/.324/.359 slash line belied the production of his previous three seasons. Since joining the Mets before the 2019 season, he had a 122 OPS+ (a stat in which 100 is average). His OPS+ this season is 96.
Bummed to be leaving the Mets, Davis was happy about the Northern California homecoming. He is from the Sacramento area and knows Giants starter Logan Webb from when they were teenagers.
“I’m excited, but I’m also a little upset and sad that I gotta say goodbye to some of these guys,” said Davis, who on Monday said he would rather not be traded.
Davis never adjusted to being a part-time player in the Mets’ platoon setup at DH.
“It’s very hard to get your rhythm going, especially when you have a four-hit game or you hit a home run and you’re not in the lineup the next day or the next three days,” he said. “It’s definitely difficult to get things going, but at the same time I try my best just to be a good teammate.”
Givens, a former stalwart for Showalter’s Orioles, figures to slot right into the Mets’ late-inning bullpen situation. With the Cubs, he had a 2.66 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He joins the likes of Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo and Trevor May (returning Wednesday) as setup men for closer Edwin Diaz.
Joining Davis with the Giants will be Szapucki, whose prospect star had faded in part because of a long history of arm trouble (plus two ugly major-league outings). The Mets had just started trying him as a reliever over the weekend in Triple-A Syracuse.
The other minor-leaguers heading to San Francisco were righthander Carson Seymour and lefthander Nick Zwack, both of whom were 2021 draft picks and had been pitching well with High-A Brooklyn.
Righthander Saul Gonzalez, the cost for Givens, is 22 years old and had been a reliever for Low-A St. Lucie.
“We were able to do everything we wanted to do and stay out of our . . . top 19 prospects,” Eppler said. “We were able to strengthen the club today and over the past couple weeks. I feel good about how things transpired.”