The Blue Jays may very well be interested in re-signing Steven Matz, but I don’t think they should go as far as giving him a Qualifying Offer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit that the former New York Met was far more valuable than I ever thought he’d be, and I don’t hate the idea of seeing him back in a Blue Jays uniform in 2022 and beyond. That said, I don’t like the way the circumstances are shaping up to make that happen, and I think the Jays should have some serious limits on how far they’re willing to go. To me, that means forgetting about a QO for the 30 year old southpaw.
I’ve been somewhat surprised to even hear the question come up lately, but I’ve noticed it on social media, and also in a few articles floating around the internet. After a season that saw Matz post a 14-7 record with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.332 WHIP over 150.2 innings, I suppose it’s fair to at least consider it.
One article I read from Mitch Bannon on si.com summed things up pretty well as far as the argument in favour of a potential QO for Matz:
"“Left-handed pitcher Steven Matz sits right on the cusp of a qualifying offer — a one-year, ~$19 million offer that could earn the Blue Jays draft pick compensation if the lefty rejects. Matz’s 2021 with Toronto (150.2 IP, 3.79 FIP, 2.8 WAR) was worth $22.1 mill in free agency per FanGraphs, and the starting pitcher finished the season allowing more than two runs just once in his final 11 starts.”"
When you put it that way, maybe it does make sense to make that kind of offer to Matz? In theory he could earn that kind of payday with his performance on the field, and if he were to reject the offer in favour of chasing a multi-year deal, the Jays would receive draft pick compensation.
As far as I’m concerned, I can see a few holes in this line of thinking from the Blue Jays’ perspective. First, I’d be willing to bet pretty serious dough that Matz would accept that kind of one-year offer if it was put in front of him. The free agent market for starting pitchers is pretty strong this offseason, and there’s no way he will find that kind of money elsewhere. He could accept a favourable multi-year offer for less money per year, but otherwise he’s not going to reach that level, and there is plenty of incentive for him to just accept that kind of raise even for one season. I’m sure the Jays would like to have him back, but I doubt they want to pay that kind of rate to do it.
Bannon also summed up the main point I wanted to make as well, so I may as well just let him do it.
"“However, ZiPS’ 2022 projections slate Matz to post a 4.82 ERA and be worth just 1.3 WAR and there are clear 2017 and 2020 blips on the 30-year-old’s track record.”"
Bannon is referring to fWAR, and by that measure Matz was worth 2.8 in 2021. With all due respect to the veteran starter, I feel like that’s likely close to his ceiling, if not exactly that. In a more likely scenario, I think he’s probably closer to the ZIPS projection than he was this season with the Blue Jays. Paying 19 million for that type of production would be a difficult pill to swallow.
Complicating things further for the southpaw and the Blue Jays is the fact that they’re almost certain to make an attempt to re-sign Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien as well, and likely at a higher priority than for Matz. Ray in particular will likely have a direct impact on if the Blue Jays are able to retain Matz as well, and theoretically could even factor into decisions around the Qualifying Offer. If the Jays are serious about trying to retain one or both of Ray and Semien, forking out 19 million for Matz won’t be easy.
At the end of the day, I’ll admit that Matz proved me wrong this past season and was far more valuable than I expected. That said, I don’t think he’s reached the level that has earned 19 million per season, and I can’t see any team in baseball disagreeing with that statement, especially with draft pick compensation playing a factor. If the Blue Jays are serious about retaining him, they’d be far better off pursuing a multi-year contract at a much lower average annual value.