NEW YORK (AP) — Determined to keep their top minor league prospects, the New York Mets made incremental upgrades to the lineup and bullpen at the trade deadline.
Without a big splash, they hope that’s enough to sink Atlanta in the NL East.
The first-place Mets acquired designated hitter Darin Ruf from San Francisco and reliever Mychal Givens from the Chicago Cubs in separate deals Tuesday as they primed for a heated pennant race with the defending World Series champions.
“All in all, a positive day,” general manager Billy Eppler said.
In the end, the Mets did not take a meaty swing for Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez or Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras — neither of whom was traded. They also were unable to land that proven lefty reliever they could really use. But they did get a much-needed bullpen boost by obtaining Givens for minor league pitcher Saúl González.
Givens, a 32-year-old right-hander, was 6-2 with two saves and a 2.66 ERA in 40 games for the struggling Cubs this season. He has 51 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings and hasn’t permitted an earned run in his past 16 outings since June 16.
Earlier in the day, Ruf was acquired from the Giants for J.D. Davis and three pitching prospects in an exchange of right-handed bats.
Left-handers Thomas Szapucki and Nick Zwack also went to San Francisco along with right-hander Carson Seymour.
“One of the things that we’ve talked about here is just really trying to maintain that organizational discipline to kind of 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,” Eppler said.
“I think some of that undisciplined thinking can lead to years of mediocrity and kind of doing the same thing over and over and over again.”
New York held a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East over the Braves heading into Tuesday night, when two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom finally returned from a string of injuries to start at Washington — his first major league outing since July 7, 2021.
Ruf has hammered left-handed pitching this season and throughout his career, something Davis was unable to do in his part-time role primarily at DH this year. He compiled just a .660 OPS against southpaws
“It was a little bit of ups and downs. It was more so of having a good game and then not playing as part of the system that’s over here, a platoon system,” Davis said.
“I think this team was driven and on a mission to win a championship. When you don’t play every day, especially how good this league is nowadays, 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, it’s definitely difficult to get things going. At the same time, I try to do my best just to be a good teammate.”
The 36-year-old Ruf was batting .216 with 11 homers, 38 RBIs and a .701 OPS overall in his third season with San Francisco following three years in South Korea with Samsung. But he brings an .886 OPS and nine home runs in 132 plate appearances against lefties, providing a perfect platoon partner at DH for left-handed hitter Daniel Vogelbach, obtained July 22 in a trade with Pittsburgh.
“Really happy to be able to kind of put Vogelbach and Ruf together,” Eppler said. “We feel we’ve been able to really add, using two roster spots, an impact bat for us to be able to utilize. And we were able to do everything that we wanted to do and kind of stay out of the inside of our top — if I’m speaking in technicalities — stay out of our top 19 prospects.”
New York also obtained left-handed-hitting outfielder Tyler Naquin in a trade with Cincinnati last week.
Ruf can play first base, left field and right field — though defense is not his strength. His calling cards are power, plate discipline and a .929 career OPS against left-handers in eight major league seasons with Philadelphia (2012-16) and San Francisco (2020-22).
Davis has a .775 career OPS versus southpaws.
The 29-year-old Davis was batting .238 overall with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .683 OPS in 66 games for the Mets. His most natural position is third base, and he’s also played left field and first base.
He is from Elk Grove, California, and went to college at Cal-State Fullerton.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to play over there, especially so close to home, being on the West Coast,” he said.
San Francisco won 107 games and the NL West last season but has sputtered this year, heading into Tuesday with a 51-52 record.
“I think it’s good for everybody,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said in Washington. “They got a good player and we got a good player. It’s one of those things that I think will work out for both clubs.”
Ruf is earning $3 million both this year and next as part of a two-year contract that includes a $3.5 million team option for 2024 with a $250,000 buyout.
Givens has held right-handed hitters to a .196 batting average in eight major league seasons with Baltimore, Colorado, Cincinnati and the Cubs. He is 31-22 with 31 saves and a 3.34 ERA in 400 career games. He makes $5 million this year and can become a free agent following the World Series.
Acquired by the Mets from Houston before the 2019 season, Davis has a $2.76 million salary and is eligible for arbitration this winter and after next season. He can become a free agent after the 2024 World Series.
Szapucki, 26, made his big league debut last year and is 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA in two career appearances. He was hit hard and chased early by the Giants in a spot start at San Francisco this season.
The left-hander is 2-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 16 starts and two relief appearances at Triple-A Syracuse, striking out 87 and walking 29 in 64 innings.
Zwack, 24, is 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA this season at Class A St. Lucie and High A Brooklyn. Seymour, 23, is 5-5 with a 2.76 ERA with the same two teams.
The 22-year-old González, a 6-foot-7 righty, was a 23rd-round draft pick in 2018. He was 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 14 games (one start) for Class A St. Lucie this season.
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