At the 2022 Winter Meetings, the Mets addressed the need for a left-handed reliever by trading for (then) 34-year old Brooks Raley from the Tampa Bay Rays for pitching prospect Keyshawn Askew. Raley, a former top prospect who reinvented himself as a bullpen specialist after a stint in the KBO, came over on a $4.5 million contract, with a $6.5 million player option for 2024, which the Mets have subsequently picked up this offseason.
Raley, in addition to being the Met’s primary lefty, was a more important piece of the bullpen than expected after the injury to Edwin Díaz in the World Baseball Classic, as he took on a higher percentage of high leverage innings due to Díaz’s absence. And, for the most part, Raley was as advertised, putting up a 151 ERA+ over a career high 66 games and 54 and two-thirds innings.
Raley did this with a slightly elevated walk rate (4.1 to a career 3.4) an a slightly diminished strikeout rate (10.0 to a career 10.2, though his post-Korea career number is closer to 11), but neither number was alarmingly off of his career norms. A big piece of his success was limiting hard contact, both in terms of the home run (4) and a low exit velocity (85.8 mph on average). Baseball Savant puts Raley’s exit velo, barrel rate, and hard hit percentage all in their ‘excellent’ range, all falling between the 90th and 100th percentile.
And, though not important from an on the field perspective, Raley’s anti-vaccine, anti-LGBTQIA+ activities which got him into some hot water while playing for Tampa did not become an issue for the Mets this season. Granted, Raley did not play in the Pride Night game, but there were no public distractions stemming from his repugnant personal politics.
Checking in on the other side of the trade, Askew, despite have an 80 grade name, is not listed at any major publication’s top 30 prospect for the Rays, despite having a decent year split between High-A and Double-A. While the soon to be 24 year old still has plenty of time to blossom, and is in a particularly stocked system, this trade looks like a clear winner for the Mets, as they gained an effective left-handed reliever for a flyer on a young arm. Whether or not Raley can replicate his 2023 season remains to be seen, but his return adds some stability to what looks to be an almost entirely remade bullpen.