Happy Steven Matz Decision Day Eve?
Matz, one of the more intriguing free agent starting pitchers on the market, is expected to make a decision on where he will sign before Thanksgiving, with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reporting that the left-hander will pick his team by Wednesday “so that he can finalize the deal before the anticipated lockout.”
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Red Sox are one of eight teams who have made a contract offer to Matz, joining the likes of the Angels, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Mets, and Tigers.
A native of Long Island, the 30-year-old southpaw spent the first six years of his major-league career with the Mets before getting traded and spending the 2021 season with the Blue Jays.
After being limited to just nine appearances (six starts) in a lost 2020, Matz bounced back in a big way with the Jays in 2021. Over 29 starts, the lefty posted a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP to go along with 144 strikeouts and 43 walks across 150 2/3 innings of work.
Because he was not extended a qualifying offer by the Blue Jays at the end of the 2021 campaign, any team that signs Matz will not have to forfeit a compensatory draft pick, which presumably adds that much more appeal.
As for just how appealing Matz is to the Red Sox, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the team has “been steadily involved in talks with Matz, though it’s unclear how series the club’s interest has been.”
Cotillo additionally notes that as of last week, ” other teams had been more aggressive to that point” in their pursuit of Matz, but also points out that if it is “a top priority” for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, “the Red Sox could have ramped up their attempt to sign Matz in recent days.”
Matz, who does not turn 31 until May, is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to net himself a three-year, $27 million contract in free agency. FanGraphs, on the other hand, has the 6-foot-2, 201 pounder landing a three-year pact worth upwards of $38 million.
It’s unclear at this point just how much the Red Sox are offering Matz, but as noted by Cotillo, the high level of interest surrounding him “might push his guarantee even higher” than the aforementioned projections.
Per Baseball Savant, Matz works with a four-pitch mix that consists of a sinker, changeup, curveball, and slider. He may not be in the same tier as other free-agent starters such as Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, or Marcus Stroman, but is still someone teams are intrigued by given the potential upside.
In the scenario that Matz elects to sign with Boston on Wednesday, it’s unlikely that the Sox will stop there when it comes to making upgrades to their starting rotation going into the 2022 season.
Following the departure of Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers, Bloom told reporters (including Cotillo) on Monday that the Red Sox have been active in free agency and will continue to do so leading up next Wednesday, when the collective bargaining agreement will expire and likely trigger a work stoppage.
“We don’t have anything teed up that I would say is close but we’re very active in conversations with a few different guys,” Bloom said. “We’ve touched base with a wide variety of players. Just about everybody who is on the market and it’s gotten more serious and more involved with some of them.
“I don’t know right now if that’s going to lead to anything or when,” he added. “I think by the time the offseason is over, we will have added pitching of various sorts, including starting pitching. I think that’s something that’s a clear goal of ours. But who that’s going to be or when, I don’t know yet.”
(Picture of Steven Matz: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)