Ranking the 10 worst contracts in the National League Central
By Greg Simons
No. 5: Steven Matz, $42M remaining
What is the current cost of mediocrity? Well, in the case of Matz, it was four years and $44M. A career record of 48-51 and an ERA of 4.33 that’s six percent below average during his big-league tenure is a pretty good representation of what you’re going to get from Matz.
Is that valuable? Well, someone has to throw all those innings each season, so when the options are a known average pitcher vs. a variety of unknown young guys trying to break through, sometimes teams prefer having a guy they can reasonably count on to take the mound on a consistent basis and keep them in ballgames.
In his first eight starts for St. Louis, Matz has been…let’s call it enigmatic. He’s had two shutout outings, allowed one, two, three, and four runs each in four other starts, and gotten blown up to the tune of 15 earned runs in a combined five innings over two starts. That mixed bag of performances has resulted in a 3-3 record and 6.03 ERA, with a serious case of homer-itis masking strong strikeout and walk rates.
As with Stroman, there’s heightened injury risk simply because Matz is a pitcher. He hasn’t been on the injured list since 2020, and his last IL stint longer than 15 days was way back in 2017, so he’s proven to be someone who can be reliably counted on to take his turn in the rotation every 5-6 days. If only he could be reliably counted on to do well when he pitches.
Yes, the cost of an average free agent pitcher these days is an eight-figure annual salary. With Matz being 31 years old, and with three more seasons to go on his backloaded contract, the odds of him being worth the investment are, similar to his career win-loss record, probably something less than 50-50.