Steven Matz, Cardinals Reportedly Agree to 4-Year, $44M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 24, 2021

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 12:  Steven Matz #22 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 12, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Steven Matz has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The deal could be worth up to $48 million and will include a signing bonus.

Whether the southpaw had the talent to thrive as a starting pitcher in MLB has rarely been in doubt. He was sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2016 after finishing 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA.

However, health has largely precluded Matz from building on the early success he had with the New York Mets.

The 30-year-old missed the start of the 2017 campaign because of elbow inflammation and made 13 starts before his elbow flared up again and required surgery. Following a pair of unspectacular years in 2018 and 2019, he was limited to nine appearances in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season because of shoulder trouble in his throwing arm.

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Matz in January 2021 in the hope he might have a return to form, and that's exactly what happened. He went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and a 3.79 FIP, per Baseball Reference. His 115 ERA+ was his second-best over a full season.

Projecting his value going forward, it might be somewhat encouraging that his performance wasn't a significant deviation from the norm.

Per Brooks Baseball, his sinker averaged 94.4 mph, right around where it had been in the preceding six seasons. He averaged 8.6 strikeouts and 2.6 walks, mirroring his career average in the former (8.6) and nearly doing the same in the latter (2.7). Opposing hitters also had a .321 batting average on balls in play, per FanGraphs, so his stats were inflated by opponents encountering bad luck at the plate.

Unlike with Toronto teammate Robbie Ray, who was a near-unanimous Cy Young winner, there probably isn't a breakthrough for Matz on the horizon. He doesn't rely on overwhelming stuff, and his whiff rate has never eclipsed 23.4 percent, according to Baseball Savant.

But a healthy Matz is a solid starter in the middle of the rotation.

His injury history is an obvious cause for concern, and his career high for innings in a season is 160.1, so he won't pitch deep into games with great frequency.

Those factors aside, he should be a valuable contributor for the Cardinals.

St. Louis returned the bulk of its rotation, but that continuity wasn't necessarily a good thing when Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas are all right-handers.

With Kwang Hyun Kim hitting free agency, the team needed to bring in at least one left-hander to provide some variety to its staff.