Blue Jays: Steven Matz is an intriguing addition to the roster

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets pitches during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets pitches during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired left-hander Steven Matz from the New York Mets in exchange for three prospects pitching prospects.

After a successful string of free-agent signings this past week, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to tip their toes into the trade waters to bolster their pitching corps. The Blue Jays added to the starting pitching depth in acquiring Steven Matz in exchange for pitchers Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winckowski to the New York Mets.

Having spent the last six seasons in New York City, Matz was utilized by the Mets as a starter for a majority of his time on the big league roster. Over his career, Matz sports a 4.35 era with a 31-41 record, throwing to a 1.320 WHIP, 552 strikeouts, and 180 walks during 579.2 innings. Last year was a struggle for the southpaw, as he was having difficulty throwing strikes and would see his ERA climb to 9.68 in 9 appearances, with the Mets throwing him in the bullpen to end the season due to his poor outings.

After the Mets acquired Carlos Carrasco and Joey Lucchesi this off-season, Matz was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation to begin the 2021 campaign and found himself on the trade block all throughout the Winter.

In exchange for Matz, the Blue Jays sent pitchers Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winckowski in return. Reid-Foley has spent the past few years riding the options bus between AAA and the MLB and recently converted into more of a bullpen pitcher role, but both Diaz and Winchowski found themselves on the Blue Jays top 30 prospect list after the latest update (26th and 27th respectively).

Diaz also has MLB experience, albeit it limited to 0.2 innings where he surrendered two earned runs and sports a 27.00 ERA, and while Winckowski has pitched well over the past five and half years (3.35 ERA, 237 strikeouts, and 1.297 WHIP), he has never progressed past Class A+ ball since being drafted.

Looking at this trade, Matz is a bit of a low-risk high-reward scenario for a southpaw addition to the roster. He only has one year left before he becomes a free agent and is only going to hit the Blue Jays pocketbook for $5.2 million this upcoming season, which isn’t an ugly number for a player with almost six-years of MLB experience.

Matz is predominantly a ground ball pitcher (47.5%) and has produced consistently well over his career. He did have some rough years in 2017 and this past season, but the other four years saw his ERA stay below 4.30 and he would also start 30 games in both 2018 and 2019. His arsenal includes a sinker, slider, curveball, and a change-up, with the sinker being his go-to pitch (hence the high ground ball rate). The New York native also has a pretty good command of his pitches, seeing his walk rate below 3.00 five out of the six years he has pitched in the big leagues so far.

Looking at the starting rotation overall, the backend is starting to get a bit crowded with Matz joining the organization.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, and Robbie Ray find themselves more locked to make the rotation (until Pearson hits his pitch limit and goes to the bullpen), leaving only two spots available to quite a few candidates. The Blue Jays will also have internal options for the spots in Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, Ross Stripling, and Tanner Roark (one could argue he could be in the lock category as well), meaning Matz is not guaranteed a spot on the rotation just yet.

He does have the advantage of possessing more MLB experience over most of the other candidates, but there are a few tough challengers on the list who could bump Matz to the bullpen or ‘starter in the wings’ if he comes out flat this spring training. He has been used in the bullpen a handful of times in the past, so having him in the pen for the next season wouldn’t be the biggest surprise.

Given that the Blue Jays gave up a few smaller pieces to the overall core puzzle, this trade isn’t one that projects to land up high on the ‘bad trade’ category. The Blue Jays were looking for help in the pitching corps/starting rotation, and while Matz may not have been the flashiest piece with some higher caliber pitchers in free agency available, he does have the experience and a few successful seasons under his belt that gives you enough confidence to be ok with what the Jays gave up.

He also isn’t a huge knock against the overall payroll over the next one to two years, meaning the Blue Jays could still go out and land another starter in Taijuan Walker, James Paxton or Jake Odorizzi this offseason, meaning Matz might end up moving to the bullpen anyway (which is not really a bad spot for him to be in).

Next. Three free agent arms who could solidify the rotation. dark

Steven Matz does make the Blue Jays pitching corps better on paper, whether it be as a starter (which I think he will be) or in the reliever role. Considering the team gave up some minor prospect capital in Reid-Foley, Diaz, and Winckowski, this addition might not be the showstopper that fans were hoping for (sorry folks, no Trevor Bauer news if that’s what you are waiting for), but if Matz can put away his struggles from last season, the Blue Jays may have just found a solid backend rotation piece to help drive towards playing October baseball in 2021.