The Toronto Blue Jays will need to evaluate if starting pitcher Steven Matz fits into their plans for the 2022 season and beyond.
I have to be honest with you about something: at first, I was not a fan of the Steven Matz trade. The Blue Jays sent a trio of Minor League pitchers to the New York Mets for the Stony Brook, New York native. Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winkowski were the three pitchers who were moved to the Mets. Reid-Foley and Diaz both had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues with the Blue Jays with minimal success. Winkowski was sent to the Red Sox in a separate deal after the trade and has been pitching in their Minor League organization.
So yes, all three players have not made their presence in the Majors known just yet, however these are prospects, and well, you can never have enough pitching. Luckily for the Blue Jays, this deal has worked out in their favour. Matz for a nice fee of $5.2 million has been a steady presence in the back end of their rotation in 2021.
Thanks to the great people at Baseball Reference, we can dig into Matz’s career numbers. In 2018 and 2019 Matz started his career-high 30 games with a very respectable earned run average in both of those seasons. He set his career-high in innings pitched in 2019 with over 160 innings, he will miss that mark this year unfortunately by about eight to ten innings or so. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) have been very respectful in his last three full seasons as well.
Matz’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) currently sits at 1.9 after his last start Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins. At the moment Matz’s WAR is better than Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.8). Raise your hand if you saw that happening in 2021? One of the weird oddities for Matz is the fact that according to his MLB.com page only 8 of his 23 starts have been quality starts.
Going through his game logs, Matz started the year off very well in April going 4-1. May was okay and he battled through an IL stint in June. He seemed to have a few good starts in July which led to an outstanding August in which he had four good starts helping lower his ERA. Three of the starts in August were six innings with one run or less, and he threw five shutout innings in Seattle as the other really good outing. He brought his success into September which included a solid six-inning one-run performance on September 7th against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium beating Gerrit Cole.
Matz has seemed to have better results as this season has gone along. One has to believe he has developed a solid working relationship with pitching coach Pete Walker. Walker has done a phenomenal job over his career working and improving upon what players like Matz and Robbie Ray have brought to the table. The Jays also have very good receiving catchers in Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, and Matz has seemed to develop a good relationship with both players.
Now back to the original question in this article. Should the Toronto Blue Jays re-sign Steven Matz?
In a perfect world, Matz is a middle to back end of a rotation starting pitcher. His velocity is pretty solid around the 94-95 mph mark for most of this season and his off-speed stuff is pretty good. The problem for Matz is that even though he could win 14 games this season, he needs to be more economical with his pitches if he wants to be in the higher tier of free agent pitchers this off-season. He’s only pitched into the 7th inning once this year.
If there was a comparable player to compare Matz to it would be former Blue Jay J.A. Happ. Happ, like Matz, is a hard throwing left-handed pitcher who had a truck load of success working with Pete Walker. Happ was not and still is not a pitcher who works really deep into games. Happ was a former 20 game winner back in 2016 when he returned for his second stint with the club. Happ’s biggest contract was a two-year $34 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees in 2019 after being traded from the Blue Jays.
The answer to the question if you’re Ross Atkins is yes, you should re-sign Steven Matz. Start with a qualifying offer and work your way to a deal from there. I think three years at $50 million total would make sense for a pitcher of Matz’s caliber. Let me know what you think below in the comments.