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Mets trade for Rays lefthander Rich Hill to help fill void in rotation

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Rich Hill delivers

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Rich Hill delivers against an Atlanta Braves batter in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Atlanta.  Credit: AP/John Bazemore

In a move that should provide an immediate boost to a rotation that needs it, the Mets acquired lefthanded starter Rich Hill from the Rays on Friday, the first of what could be several trades in the next week as the Mets seek short-term stabilization and longer-term postseason success.

The Mets sent injured reliever Tommy Hunter and minor-league catcher/utilityman Matt Dyer to Tampa Bay.

The trade deadline isn’t until next Friday, but acting general manager Zack Scott and the Mets didn’t have the luxury of waiting that long. They have three games — and no named starters — Sunday and Monday.

Hill, 41, likely will fill one of those spots. He last pitched Sunday, so he should be rested for whenever the Mets want to use him.

"It’s a great fit, great acquisition," manager Luis Rojas said. "It’s going to help us hugely."

The Mets currently have a three-man rotation of Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker and Tylor Megill. Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard, David Peterson and others are on the injured list, with potential return dates ranging from next week to September.

Carrasco (torn right hamstring) is scheduled to pitch again Sunday or Monday, but the Mets haven’t decided whether that will be in a minor-league game or for the major-league team, Rojas said. DeGrom (tight right forearm) played catch Friday but isn’t doing anything more than that.

Rojas said he hasn’t considered whether he’d use Hill out of the bullpen if and when the Mets end up with more than five healthy starters.

"Right now the need is a starter, and we got a really good one here," he said.

Hill had a 3.87 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 19 starts for the Rays but has struggled for the past month-plus.

Since June 12, he has a 5.40 ERA and .274/.368/.508 opponents’ slash line. Before that, those numbers were 3.05 and .189/.270/.332.

Hill has, however, been able to stay healthy, which is unusual. From 2016-19 — full seasons in which he has been a starting pitcher — he averaged only 21 appearances per year. He has dealt with groin, blister, knee, forearm and shoulder issues since reviving his career in 2015.

Another plus to Hill: He is proven in the postseason, with a 3.06 ERA in 13 lifetime appearances (12 starts). The Mets’ leaders in that category were Syndergaard and Stroman, who have played in five such games.

"It’s going to bring a lot of experience," Rojas said. "We don’t have that veteran, veteran guy that has experience like this and could bring different stories from different teams, being in the playoffs multiple times. It’s a great addition. This only makes us better right now."

Hill is older than Rojas (39) and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner (35).

"Age is just a number," Rojas said.

The Mets will be the 11th team Hill has played with in 17 seasons in the majors, following the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox, Cleveland, Angels, Yankees, Athletics, Dodgers, Twins and Rays.

Hill was a struggling minor-league sidearming reliever in 2015 in the Nationals’ organization when he asked them to release him, because he wanted to reinvent himself as a starting pitcher with a traditional over-the-top delivery. Former Mets GM Jared Porter — then the Red Sox’s director of pro scouting — helped him do so by suggesting he stand on the third-base side of the rubber.

The first team to give Hill, then 35, another shot was the independent Long Island Ducks. He made two starts for them before the Red Sox signed him to a minor-league deal.

Since then, Hill has a 3.07 ERA across seven seasons.

The Mets’ acquisition cost was minimal. Hunter might not pitch again this year because of a back injury. Dyer, the Mets’ fourth-round draft pick last year, was hitting .194 with a .781 OPS for Low-A St. Lucie, seeing time at catcher, first base, third base and rightfield.

Robert Stock was transferred to the 60-day IL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

"Our front office is being diligent," Rojas said. "One of our needs right now. We talked about our starting pitching need, and this is a guy that fits right in."

WELL-TRAVELED

Rich Hill’s MLB stops since breaking into the big leagues in 2005:

2005-08: Cubs

2009: Orioles

2010-12: Red Sox

2013: Cleveland

2014: Angels, Yankees

2015: Red Sox

2016: A’s, Dodgers

2017-19: Dodgers

2020: Twins

2021: Rays, Mets

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