As the New York Mets enter what is expected to be the busiest part of Major League Baseball’s offseason, the question of what to do with Steven Matz continues to hover over the pitching staff.
The 29-year-old southpaw saw the wheels fall off during the shortened 2020 season, posting a career-worst 9.68 ERA that included a demotion to the bullpen, which provided little relief.
It was yet another season in which Matz failed to live up to that initial potential he flashed during the 2015 season before injuries and inconsistencies continuously stymied his professional growth. But from 2015-2019, Matz at least offered the option of being a somewhat reliable bottom-of-the-rotation arm — even with concerning home-and-away splits two years ago.
His implosion in 2020 has only cast further doubt regarding his future with the Mets, and an important deadline to make a decision on his status with the club is rapidly approaching.
The Mets have until Dec. 2 to decide whether or not to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, a list that features Matz and his estimated salary of roughly $5.2 million, per Spotrac.
As it stands, the Mets’ Opening Day rotation consists of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson while Noah Syndergaard completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery. They are expected to be major players in the free-agent market with potential pursuits of NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, along with mid-rotation arms like Jake Odorizzi, in the cards.
Matz could be retained to provide much-needed depth should the injury bug strike, but it all depends on if he’s able to shake off the things that made 2020 such a nightmare for him.
As SNY’s Danny Abriano noted, Matz posted his highest average fastball and slider velocity ever along with the best strikeout rate of his career (10.57 K/9). However, he struggled with his location, presenting too many pitches over the heart of the plate as opposing hitters put the barrel to the ball 13.5% of Matz’s pitches while his average exit velocity against was 91.5%.
In an attempt to rectify these issues this offseason, he’s been working with former Mets pitching coach Phil Regan, who performed under the interim tag for a portion of the 2019 season.
It remains to be seen if that’s enough to coax the Mets into giving him another chance, but the obvious option to cut ties with Matz and re-allocate his funds toward an upgrade in the bullpen could very well be chosen in the coming days.