Can the St. Louis Cardinals rely on Steven Matz in 2024?

There's a narrative going around, and it says that Steven Matz isn't a competent pitcher. I'm going to put that to bed today.

St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Is Steven Matz's contract a good deal?

The Cardinals rarely give out big deals. That's not to say that they're a cheap organization. They took on a ton of money when they acquired Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. They were willing to take on significant money in a Giancarlo Stanton trade. The Cardinals offered Jason Heyward and David Price huge deals. But, those instances are outnumbered by the times the Cardinals have sat out of bidding wars. They weren't willing to meet Scherzer's asking price. They missed on Yamamoto. In each of the two most recent off-seasons, they've decided against jumping into the shortstop market. The examples are seemingly endless.

Instead of giving out big contracts, the Cardinals have typically handed out shorter deals to players in the middle of the market. Mike Leake, Dexter Fowler, and Sonny Gray come to mind as strong examples. These deals have the capability to hinder the Cardinals, but they don't have the capability to cripple them. Fowler's contract was an albatross. However, his relatively low price tag allowed the Cardinals to remain competitive. Jason Heyward's massive contract may have truly prevented them from contending.

With this in mind, it's understandable why the Cardinals don't always make the splashiest signings. It's also understandable why fans and executives alike scrutinize even minor deals. Greg Holland was an expense that a team like the New York Yankees could easily write off. The Cardinals stuck with him for far too long, and although they eventually designated him for assignment, it was clear that the contract burdened the organization. Yankees fans may have ragged on Holland, but they wouldn't still be talking about him five years later. Cardinals fans don't forget bad contracts, even once those contracts turn around.

Unfortunately, as we discussed earlier, Matz got off to a terrible start in St. Louis. Fans decided that he was a bad pitcher on a bad contract. In reality, he's a solid pitcher on a very team-friendly contract. Matz gave the Cardinals 105 quality innings last year. He did so for just $11 million. He was worth that money in 2023, even if he wasn't worth that expenditure in 2022. He really turned it around!

There are plenty of pitchers being paid much more and producing much less than Matz can be compared to. Just last year, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas both made significantly more than Matz and pitched significantly worse. Around the league, guys like Carlos Rodon, Madison Bumgarner, and Tyler Anderson come to mind as similarly overpaid players. At the price point of $11 million, Matz is a strong pitcher. If he can stay healthy in 2024, he could go from being a good asset to a huge bargain.

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