The Toronto Blue Jays have made attempts, in recent days, to upgrade different parts of their roster, mostly on the pitching side of things.
While arguments can be made that not enough was done to make the team legit World Series contenders, there’s no doubt that they avoided what could’ve been a major mistake in the offseason.
It felt like a gut punch when Steven Matz signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals after a fine 2021 season with Toronto, but ineffectiveness and injury have proven that the organization dodged a bullet.
Blue Jays: Thank you, Matz
It was thought that one or maybe two of these players could be retained. When the Texas Rangers stepped up and inked the 31-year-old Semien to a massive seven-year deal, it hurt, but the size and term of the agreement offset some of the disappointment.
When Ray signed his mega-deal with the Mariners, the front office already had the inside track to landing Kevin Gausman. Although it’s the first of nearly identical five-year contracts, Gausman has been the better pitcher in 2022 and a stabilizing force in the rotation.
Matz was actually the first to sign, in late November, and his departure meant the Jays were on the hunt for another starter, preferably a lefty. That led them to sign Yusei Kikuchi, and while his season has been an adventure, it’s been smooth sailing in comparison to Matz’s.
He was hit hard in his first start as a Cardinal with nine hits and seven earned runs. Matz would go on to give up at least four earned runs in three of his first six starts. As inconsistent as his performances have been, it’s been his lack of availability that has made his signing such a letdown.
After two decent starts in May, Matz was placed on the injured list with a shoulder injury that kept him off the mound for two months.
July 23rd was his first game back, and, to add to the anguish, Matz was dealing when a routine ground ball was hit down the first-base line. The left-hander tried to barehand the ball, mishandled it, stumbled out of play, and hyperextended his left knee.
The play resulted in a torn MCL and another stint on the IL. Surgery may be required or long rest and recovery. Either way, Matz’s season is probably over after just 42.2 innings and a 5.70 ERA.
If he had been retained, the Blue Jays would likely need to trade for two starting pitchers at the deadline. Given the asking price for some of the top guys available, that would have left them with an even emptier pool of prospects, or having to settle for a low-level option.
There are many question marks in the rotation beyond Gausman and Alek Manoah. At least Kikuchi has a chance to have a solid finish to the season and Mitch White has the ability to be a capable fill-in this season and a part of the solution moving forward.