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Cubs free agent target: Steven Matz

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Here’s a lefthander who could bolster the rotation.

Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The departures of Jon Lester and Jose Quintana to free agency left the Cubs with no lefthanders in their rotation when the 2021 season began, and it took until Game 114 of this past season until a lefty (Justin Steele) started a game for the Cubs. Steele was the only lefthander who started any games for the Cubs in 2021, nine in all.

So as the Cubs look to upgrade their rotation for 2022, a lefthander or two would be quite useful.

Some have suggested the Cubs look at Blue Jays lefthander Robbie Ray, but he’ll be expensive. Ray had a fantastic season in Toronto and could win the AL Cy Young Award.

So I’m going to suggest the Cubs sign another Toronto lefty, Steven Matz.

Matz was the Mets’ No. 2 pick in 2009 (others picked in that round: Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Trayce Thompson and Robert Stock) and was a Top 15 prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. (“Matz of the Mets” became a thing when he pitched in New York — he’s a NYC-area native, too.)

Then he got hurt, often. He’d already had Tommy John surgery before even making the big leagues (in 2010), but a series of injuries limited him to 30+ starts in just two of his first six major league seasons. After a shoulder injury ruined his 2020 season, the Mets traded him to the Blue Jays for three pitchers who haven’t had much impact on the Mets, yet.

Meanwhile, Matz had a fine season in Toronto, posting a 3.82 ERA, 1.334 WHIP and 2.0 bWAR. He had a good walk ratio (2.6 per nine innings) and has been fairly consistent in that area for his entire career (2.7 career rate). Here’s his pitch selection, via Statcast:

That looks pretty good to me, solid fastball velocity and good use of a changeup.

He made 29 starts in 2021, again missing the 30-start milestone, but his IL stint in June was COVID-related. His arm stayed healthy all year and in 14 starts after the All-Star break, he posted a 2.91 ERA and 1.291 WHIP, with only six home runs allowed in 74⅓ innings.

Matz made $5.2 million in 2021 and turns 31 next May. Given that his arm was not injured in 2021, I think he’s a reasonable risk for a three-year, $35 million deal with a fourth-year vesting option at, say, $15 million with a $4 million buyout.

Who says no?

Poll

Steven Matz...

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to the contract proposed in the article
    (293 votes)
  • 19%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but to a different deal (leave in comments)
    (99 votes)
  • 21%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (110 votes)
502 votes total Vote Now