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Jose Bautista traded by Mets to Phillies

Mets rightfielder Jose Bautista walks back to the

Mets rightfielder Jose Bautista walks back to the dugout after he strikes out looking against the Nationals at Citi Field on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

CHICAGO -- The Mets’ Jose Bautista era, if you can call it that, is over.

Three months and six days after picking the 37-year-old utility man off the major-league scrap heap, the Mets traded Bautista to the playoff-contending Phillies on Tuesday. The Mets will receive a player to be named or cash.

Assistant general manager John Ricco offered two primary motivations for moving Bautista: freeing up playing time in the corner outfield for Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith, as well as “doing the right thing by Jose” by sending him to a pennant race.

“He came to us at a time when we had some injuries and needed some stability, and I think he not only provided that but did a lot more,” Ricco said on Tuesday.

Any return registers as a small win for the Mets, who had effectively no reason to keep Bautista after the Phillies claimed him on revocable trade waivers Sunday. Bautista, a free agent at the end of the season, was relegated to the bench with the return of Jay Bruce last week and Nimmo on Tuesday.

For Bautista, the trade is a chance to be a part of the playoff race, a meaningful conclusion to his season after being unemployed into mid-April, spending about a month with the Braves and joining the Mets in late May on a league-minimum contract. He stands to be a versatile addition to the Phillies’ bench, with experience at all four corner infield and outfield spots.

Bautista hit .204 with a .351 OBP and .367 slugging percentage in 83 games for the Mets but slumped with a .168/.303/.294 slash line since the All-Star break.

Smith is expected to return to the Mets within a week. He has struggled in the majors and with Triple-A Las Vegas this season, but also hasn’t received steady opportunity with the Mets and has been learning to play the outfield, mostly left.

Ricco said the Mets are still high on Smith, a 23-year-old former first-round pick who has been blocked at first base this season by Adrian Gonzalez, Wilmer Flores and Jay Bruce.

“Unfortunately, the way it works, it’s not always just, there’s an opening and here you go,” Ricco said. “You have to grab your opportunities when you get them.

“We’re still very high on him and are trying to figure out a way to get him some more time to prove himself.”

Extra bases

Robert Gsellman (strep throat) was not with the Mets on Tuesday. … Anthony Swarzak (right shoulder inflammation) is still trying to build up his arm to the point where he can throw off a mound, Mickey Callaway said. The manager called Swarzak returning this season “a realistic goal.” … The Mets hope Devin Mesoraco (tight neck) will be ready to start by Friday in San Francisco.

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