NY Mets complete deals with LHP Quintana, RHP Robertson

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – The active New York Mets took two more steps toward restocking their pitching staff Friday night, finalizing contracts with free agents Jose Quintana and David Robertson.

Quintana signed a $26 million, two-year deal that adds another veteran arm to the team’s revamped rotation. The sides agreed to terms Wednesday during baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego, pending a physical.

Robertson gets a $10 million, one-year contract that brings the veteran reliever back to New York after two previous stints with the Yankees. He gives the Mets an experienced setup man for All-Star closer Edwin Diaz as they rebuild their bullpen during a whirlwind offseason.

“We’re very excited to add a pitcher of David’s caliber,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a news release. “He has been pitching in high-leverage situations for teams with postseason expectations since his career started.”

Quintana, who gets $13 million in each of the next two seasons, was 6-7 with a career-best 2.93 ERA in 32 starts last season for Pittsburgh and St. Louis. He was terrific after he was traded to the Cardinals in August, posting a 2.01 ERA in 12 appearances for the NL Central champions. He worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his lone playoff start, but St. Louis was eliminated by NL champion Philadelphia.

The left-hander allowed 0.43 homers per nine innings this year, the lowest mark in the majors among qualified starters. He didn’t give up a home run in his last 61 2/3 innings, the longest active streak in the big leagues.

Quintana, who turns 34 in January, joins 38-year-old Max Scherzer and fellow newcomer Justin Verlander (40 in February) in a New York rotation that also includes Carlos Carrasco (36 in March). David Peterson and Tylor Megill, both 27, are the top in-house contenders to round out the unit.

“Over the last decade, Jose has been one of the most dependable starting pitchers in the majors,” Eppler said in a separate news release. “Adding another left-handed option to our rotation, especially one with his durability, experience, and moxie, will give our starting staff quality depth.”

Quintana can earn $100,000 for World Series MVP and $50,000 each for League Championship Series MVP, Gold Glove and making the All-Star team. He would get $50,000 for winning a Cy Young Award, $25,000 for finishing second and $10,000 for third.

It’s been a hectic week for Eppler and the Mets, who landed Verlander with an $86.7 million, two-year contract that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. They also traded for lefty reliever Brooks Raley from Tampa Bay and agreed to bring back free-agent center fielder Brandon Nimmo on a $162 million, eight-year contract, subject to a successful physical.

Scherzer, Verlander and Quintana all started their team’s playoff opener last season. The 2023 Mets will be the first club with three pitchers who each started his team’s first postseason game the previous year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

New York has been overhauling its pitching staff following a playoff loss to San Diego in the wild-card round. Three starters became free agents: Jacob deGrom left for Texas, Taijuan Walker has a deal in place with Philadelphia pending a physical, and Chris Bassitt remains on the open market.

In the bullpen, all of New York’s top relievers besides Drew Smith became free agents, including Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Joely Rodriguez, Mychal Givens, Trevor Williams and Tommy Hunter.

Diaz returned on a $102 million, five-year contract last month.

The 37-year-old Robertson pitched for the Yankees across town from 2008-14 and again from 2017-18. He spent last season with the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies, going 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA and 20 saves in 58 appearances. The right-hander struck out 81 batters and walked 35 while giving up only 39 hits in 62 2/3 innings.

Robertson even closed out the World Series opener against Houston for the first postseason save of his career. He threw four scoreless innings in four outings during the Fall Classic for the Phillies, who lost to the Astros in six games. He is 6-0 with a 2.78 ERA in 41 career postseason games.

Diaz is the undisputed closer for the Mets after a dominant season that earned him the 2022 Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. But with 157 saves in 14 major league seasons, Robertson provides short-term insurance in addition to his primary job filling a late-inning setup role. He is 57-36 with a 2.89 ERA in 731 career games with the Yankees, White Sox, Phillies, Rays and Cubs.

Eppler worked in the Yankees’ front office while Robertson was a valuable member of their bullpen, ultimately succeeding Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer in 2014.

Robertson, nicknamed Houdini for his great escapes on the mound, has always been easily recognizable with his baseball socks worn high. He was out of the majors for almost 2 1/2 years because of an elbow injury in 2019 that required Tommy John surgery and a long rehab process.

Finally healthy, he earned two saves to help the U.S. Olympic team win the silver medal in Japan. He returned to the big leagues with Tampa Bay on Sept. 1, 2021.

Quintana broke into the majors with the Chicago White Sox in 2012. He is 89-87 with a 3.75 ERA in 315 games, including 289 starts, over 11 seasons with six teams. He earned his lone All-Star selection in 2016, going 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA in 32 starts for the White Sox.

As part of the deals, Quintana and Robertson get hotel suites on road trips.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”