The New York Mets began the process of dismantling the team with the largest payroll of all-time late Thursday night, trading closer David Robertson to the Miami Marlins for two teenage minor leaguers.
The Mets, who began the season with a $353m payroll, beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 to improve to 48-54. They are seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds, who are in a virtual tie for the last two NL wild-card spots.
The trade results in a savings of nearly $6.75m for the Mets. The Marlins pay the $3,548,387 remaining of Robertson’s $10m salary. New York’s luxury tax bill is reduced by $3.19m.
“We didn’t have visions of this at the start of the season,” Mets general manager Billy Eppler said.
The Marlins, with the seventh-lowest payroll in the majors at a little more than $91m, are a half-game behind the Phillies and Reds after going 7-13 this month.
Robertson warmed up in the eighth inning of a tie game before a 97-minute rain delay gave Eppler and Marlins general manager Kim Ng time to complete the trade. Brooks Raley pitched the ninth and earned his second save.
“That was unique,” Eppler said. “But the rain delay provided an opportunity for us to kind of get a final offer from Miami.”
Miami sent a pair of players from its rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate, Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernandez, to the Mets in exchange for Robertson, who signed a one-year deal in December with the expectations he’d help serve as a late-inning bridge to closer Edwin Diaz.
But Diaz suffered a torn patella tendon during the World Baseball Classic, vaulting the 38-year-old Robertson into the ninth-inning role. Robertson has been the Mets’ most reliable reliever, getting 14 saves and posting a 2.05 ERA for a team that entered Thursday with a 4.22 bullpen ERA – the 10th-worst in the majors.
“I’ve said (it) I don’t know how many times – there’s a ton of talent in this clubhouse, we just weren’t able to put it together,” Robertson said. “When you can’t put it together in time, GMs and owners have to make decisions. And I was one of those decisions and I got moved.”
Eppler said the Mets remain in listening mode. Mark Canha, Tommy Pham and Carlos Carrasco are all due to hit free agency after the season while Omar Narváez, in the first year of a two-year deal, lost the everyday starting catching job to rookie Francisco Álvarez.
Max Scherzer has a $43.3m player option for next season while fellow former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is guaranteed $43.3m in 2024, the final season of his two-year deal.
“It’s a little different than just declaring it and calling everybody and saying we’re sellers,” Eppler said. “It’s more just looking at it on a case-by-case basis, hearing who clubs kind of covet and hearing what their kind of price point is on players.”
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