Counting down the 20 most important Cardinals in 2023: #16 Steven Matz

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals - Game Two
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The 20 most important St. Louis Cardinals in 2023: #16 Steven Matz

Each day leading up to Opening Day, our Redbird Rants team will be counting down the 20 most important St. Louis Cardinals for the 2023 season. Here are the players we have covered thus far.

#20 Juan Yepez

#19 Jordan Hicks

#18 Andre Pallante

#17 Giovanny Gallegos

Today we shift to the starting rotation, specifically to the only member of the 2023 starting staff who is signed for next season, #16 on our list, Steven Matz.

Matz, 31, was selected by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2009 draft. However, his professional debut was delayed until 2012 because of Tommy John surgery on the southpaw's pitching elbow shortly after he was drafted. Matz acquitted himself well during his minor league progression, with his only ERA above 2.62 during that time coming in a 3.2-inning pit stop in High-A St. Lucie.

Following a six-start big league pot of coffee in 2015 in which Matz posted a 2.27 ERA, Matz made 22 starts in 2016 and recorded a 3.40 ERA, making the Mets' decision to early round snag him early in the draft look like a prudent move. However, things turned sour in the '17 season as Matz put up a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts and spent some time in the minors.

While Matz bounced back to nearly average in the 2018-'19 time period, his performance during the shortened 2020 campaign was nightmarish, as he posted a 9.68 ERA during six starts and three relief appearances. The following January, Matz was jettisoned to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for three minor leaguers.

Matz had a strong season in Canada heading into free agency, going 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 150.2 IP. That platform year earned him the four-year, $44M contract he currently is under with the Redbirds. An abbreviated first season saw Matz pitch just 48 innings (while striking out 54 batters) with a 5.25 ERA.