The Cardinals are making excuses to salvage Steven Matz's contract

Steven Matz has struggled massively with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024, but the Cardinals appear to be turning every which way to justify starting the slumping southpaw.
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game Two
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game Two / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The rotation of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024 has been better than many people expected to begin the season, but one pitcher has endured rough seas this year. Steven Matz has made six starts in 2024 and stumbled to a 6.18 ERA while failing to provide the innings that the Cardinals emphasized a need for out of their starters.

If it weren't for the significant contract that Matz signed for the 2022 season, the Cardinals likely would have moved on. But as it stands, the team appears to be doing whatever it can to keep the Steven Matz experience going.

After the second game of a doubleheader on April 30, where Matz only went 3.1 innings and allowed four earned runs, manager Oli Marmol revealed that Matz had been nursing a lower back injury but was determined to pitch through it. It's a curious case that Marmol decided to let Matz start, likely being fully aware that pitching through an injury could exacerbate it.

If the Cardinals were informed of Matz's injury, it would have made sense for them to instead call up Adam Kloffenstein from Triple-A Memphis. Zack Thompson and Andre Pallante had just pitched for Memphis, and it was Kloffenstein's turn to toe the rubber, meaning he would likely have been the team's only realistic option. Kloffenstein is also on the 40-man roster, so the Cardinals wouldn't have had to remove a player from their current roster to make room.

In Matz's prior start, on April 23, he pitched 4.1 innings and surrendered seven runs. Marmol's explanation at that time was that Matz's stuff was strong but he couldn't locate his pitches. Marmol's continual defense of Matz looks to have John Mozeliak's fingerprints all over it, as the President of Baseball Operations made a substantial investment in the left-hander to the tune of a four-year $44 million deal and surely doesn't want to admit to another failed free agent signing.

Injuries have plagued Matz throughout his time in St. Louis, and the Cardinals keep playing a game of "what if," hoping that Matz can show the form he flashed in his last five starts of 2023, where he had a 1.24 ERA. But the Cardinals need to bite the bullet and concede that they missed on Matz instead of coming up with reasons to prolong his time in the rotation in an attempt to squeeze out any last drop of juice that could let Mozeliak save face.