Jeff Passan of ESPN is reporting that the St. Louis Cardinals have signed free agent lefty Steven Matz to a four-year, $44 million guaranteed contract, pending a physical. Incentives could eventually push that figure as high as $48 million, or an AAV of $12 million.
Matz to sign Four Year, $44 Million Deal With Cardinals
As many as eight teams were known to have made offers to Matz as recently as Tuesday this week. That list included the Cardinals , as well as the Giants, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cubs, Angels and Mets, according to a tweet from Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
Matz leaves Toronto after a solid 2021 season, where he went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP over 29 starts and 150.2 innings, only walking 6.6% of the batters he faced and inducing ground balls at a healthy 45.5% clip. He seemed to work well with Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker, and his WAR of 2.0 was in-line with his career average of 2.1. He leaves a hole in the back of the starting rotation depth after Jose Berríos, Alex Manoah and Hyun Jin Ryu.
The guaranteed deal would be substantially more than the 3 years, $27 million projected by MLB Trade Rumors for Matz, and is also a better contract than the 3 year, $36 million deal that Anthony DeSclafani just signed to return to the Giants.
Like the Jays with Matz, the Giants did not extend a qualifying offer to DeSclafani, but were able to re-sign him to a longer deal anyway. Both pitchers have similar mid-rotation resumes, with seven years of major league experience under their belts. DeSclafani has averaged a bWAR of 2.4 per 162-game season to Matz’s 2.1.
Clearly teams have prioritized starting pitching early this offseason ahead of the CBA expiry on December 1st. The market for mid-rotation starters seems to be settling around $11~12 million AAV with 3~4 year deals as evidenced by the Matz and DeSclafani deals.
Remaining free agent mid-rotation arms include righties Jon Gray and Zack Greinke, and lefties Yusei Kikuchi and Alex Wood (rumoured to be re-signing with the Giants), but then the quality drops off to guys like Corey Kluber, a known injury risk, Alex Cobb and Danny Duffy.
Starters with more upside that remain on the free agent board include Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw and Marcus Stroman.The Blue Jays front office remains actively engaged in the market, so hopefully they’ll get something done before a potential work stoppage.
With that, here’s wishing Steven Matz and his family all the best going forward as he takes his talents to St. Louis. Thanks for everything in 2021!