Steven Matz was the first pitcher rumored to be of interest to the Cardinals. On Tuesday, he agreed to a deal to spend four seasons in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Cardinals were aggressively looking for a free-agent starting pitcher. They had eyes on Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, Max Scherzer and Marcus Stroman, among others, a sign clear they wanted a meaningful upgrade.
On Tuesday night, Steven Matz and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. Incentives can push the deal to $48 million.
Matz, 30, was the first pitcher linked to the Cardinals this offseason and fit much of what the team desires. He has a career 46.7 percent groundball rate, which plays hand-in-hand with their elite infield defense that features three Gold Glovers. It’s in large part because of a sinker that has averaged 94.5 mph, which is an asset that many left-handed starters do not have.
Matz’s contract is higher than most projections. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year, $27 million contract, but after Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander and Eduardo Rodriguez signed lucrative contracts, all free-agent contract projections were thrown out the window. Still, the Cardinals signing a very good starting pitcher for $11 million per season is solid value, and gives them flexibility to address other areas of the roster.
What appealed to Matz, however, was the Cardinals offering a fourth year. Once that was offered, a deal was getting done. But it’s a smart investment, bringing in a starter who posted a 3.82 ERA last season, and should be even better behind a defense that plays to his strengths.
In the rotation, Matz immediately slides into the No. 3 spot behind Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright. He gives them a left-handed starter, which is something they did not previously have on the roster, and was believed to be something they sought in free agency, hence why they were interested in Wood (another sinker-baller and groundball pitcher).
But Matz was one of their top targets and someone the organization believes can transform the rotation. If that’s indeed the case, $11 million per season could turn out to be a bargain.