SEATTLE — With the non-waiver trade deadline looming on Monday, the Mets most definitely are sellers. Their focus has shifted to winning in 2018. But on Friday night, they worked toward the future by acting like buyers, trading two prospects to the Marlins for closer A.J. Ramos.
The surprise move unfolded in the middle of a 7-5 victory over the Mariners, the Mets’ seventh victory in 10 games.
Before a large contingent of friends and family, Michael Conforto enjoyed a happy homecoming. Playing for the first time near his native Redmond, Washington, the All-Star hit a pair of solo home runs, with the latter tying the score as part of a three-run rally in the eighth.
“I saw some familiar faces around the dugout and behind home plate,” Conforto said. “Just people that have helped me along the way — coaches, teachers, people from my hometown . . . It doesn’t get any better than that.”
After Wilmer Flores beat out a potential double-play ball to keep the eighth inning alive, Neil Walker singled home the go-ahead run in his first game back off the disabled list, where he had spent the last six weeks with a hamstring injury. Curtis Granderson’s RBI single added an insurance run.
However, the on-field result proved secondary to a trade that helped the Mets on two separate fronts as they continue their sell-off.
Dealing for Ramos took a live arm off the current trade market, which only enhanced the value of closer Addison Reed, who nailed down his 19th save in 21 chances. According to a source, the Mets still intend to trade Reed by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
More importantly, the trade bolstered the bullpen for 2018, with Ramos under team control in his final year of arbitration. Rather than strengthening a weak bullpen for next season by handing out a costly multiyear contract in free agency, the Mets added Ramos for the remainder of his salary this season and the roughly $9 million he likely will command in 2018. It is his final year of control, meaning that it essentially is a one-year deal, which carries far less risk.
Ramos, 30, joins a bullpen core for next season that will include lefty specialist Jerry Blevins and closer Jeurys Familia.
“Anything to help shore up our bullpen is a good move,” manager Terry Collins said.
Ramos, a former All-Star, had 20 saves and a 3.63 ERA for the Marlins this year. In the last three seasons, he has 92 saves, a 2.79 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 174 innings. He has allowed 127 hits and 83 walks for a 1.21 WHIP.
The Mets sent righthander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes to the Marlins.
Gonzalez, 21, was the Mets’ ninth-ranked prospect, according to mlb.com. He was 12-3 with a 1.78 ERA in 17 starts between Class A Columbia and Class A St. Lucie.
Cespedes, 19, is hitting .255 in a season split between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Class A Columbia and Class A Brooklyn. He was the 22nd-ranked prospect in the Mets’ system, according to mlb.com.
With Ramos off the board, the Mets are even more emboldened to hold out for a strong return for Reed, one of the top arms on the market. According to a rival executive, the Mets’ demands for Reed remain “very high,” an indication of their confidence that his market is still healthy. He has been linked to the Brewers, Red Sox and Dodgers, among others.
Reed, 28, who has a 2.57 ERA, has been one of the National League’s top relievers since arriving in a trade from the Diamondbacks in 2015. He has piqued the interest of more than a half-dozen teams, a source said. Unlike Ramos, Reed is not under control next year, meaning he will be a free agent.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” Reed said of the possibility of a trade. “I can’t control it.”
Teams also have approached the Mets about Blevins, only to be told that he will not be moved. It’s a sign that the Mets likely will pick up his $7-million option for next season. Entering Friday night, Blevins, 33, had held lefthanded batters to a .173 average. If the Mets are contenders next season, he will be a valuable asset.
Interest in Granderson has picked up somewhat. The Brewers have emerged as a suitor for the 36-year-old, a source said Friday night. The sides have maintained a dialogue, but as of Friday night, a move was not imminent.
Granderson is hitting .225 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs, with his production bouncing back to near career norms after a brutal start to his season.
Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera also has been among those with some demand for his services. He started at third base for the fifth time this season, part of the Mets’ efforts to showcase his versatility. He also has perked up at the plate, collecting three hits Friday night to continue what has been a productive road trip.
But for others potentially on the trade block, their chances of staying put seem to be increasing by the day.
The Mets have signaled that they have little appetite for trading away players who remain under team control past this season. It’s why they haven’t wavered from a sky-high asking price for Jacob deGrom, essentially making him untouchable, according to a rival executive.
Rightfielder Jay Bruce and catcher Rene Rivera also might stick around past the deadline.
The Cubs have been in search of a backup catcher and had been in discussion with the Mets about Rivera, who will turn 34 on Monday. A source said those talks have stalled, leaving a potential deal unlikely.
Bruce, 30, hit his 27th homer in the first inning. He remains on pace for one of the best seasons of his career, but a source said interest has remained mild. If he isn’t traded, the Mets have considered making a qualifying offer in the offseason.