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Mets tendering Steve Matz would be the right move

Mets tendering Steve Matz would be the right move

For just a moment, forget the Steven Matz who, over five years ago now, enjoyed the best debut in Flushing since the Beatles played Shea Stadium in 1965.

Forever, forget the Matz who lost his way, his job and his job security during the brutal, COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Instead, look at Matz’s 2016 through 2019 campaigns. Run the numbers and you get a guy who averaged a 4.17 ERA over 128 ¹/₃ innings for the length of a presidential term.

You get a pitcher worth about $5 million for the 2021 New York Mets.

On Wednesday’s tender deadline for all baseball players not under contract and not eligible for free agency, the Mets must make the call whether to retain Matz, their homegrown left-hander, for next season. As per the collectively bargained rules, they must offer him no less than 80 percent of his most recent salary, which was $5 million (he actually earned about $1.85 million over the 60 games), or else turn him into a free agent.

It appears the Mets will tender Matz, who can be a service-time free agent after next season, rather than set him free. And that will be the right call.

Yes, yes, Matz did post a horrific 9.68 ERA in nine games (six starts, three relief appearances) last season, getting demoted out of the starting rotation and spending time on the injured list with left shoulder discomfort. It was a disaster, one that will block Matz from upward financial mobility and could result in a “pre-tender” deal being finished on Wednesday rather than the two sides moving toward a potential arbitration hearing to determine the 29-year-old’s salary.

the mets must tender steven matz by tuesday
Steven MatzCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It was a disaster, but it was just a two-month disaster. Even the worst celebrity marriages last longer than two months. It’s not enough of a sample size to justify giving up on a guy who had established himself as useful and valuable despite not matching the initial highs of his magical 2015 rookie season featuring his 3-hit, 4-RBI, 7 ²/₃-innings, 2-runs big-league debut (and co-starring his exuberant grandpa).

Beyond Steve Cohen’s vast wealth, which creates room for error where it didn’t previously exist with this organization, Matz displayed enough flashes of hope amid his dumpster fire of a campaign. Most notably, his average sinker velocity of 94.5 ranked as his highest since that 2015 season (94.9).

That extra velocity might have been part of the problem, as the Mets’ ageless pitching guru Phil Regan recently opined to Newsday. Yet you’d rather manage that problem than the opposite. Furthermore, Matz’s 2020 spin rates, as per Baseball Savant, were not dramatically off from prior seasons and in some cases were higher.

Throw in the Mets’ lack of starting pitching depth, even as they engage with free agents like Trevor Bauer and Jake Odorizzi, and you have another reason to bring back Matz, whose commitment to community service makes him a good citizen as well.

If 2020 proves to be the trend rather than an aberration for Matz? Then you just release him or, if that’ll be too awkward, throw him on the injured list with an ailment of his choosing. You dip into that Cohen stash come the trade deadline and find more reinforcements.

If Matz simply rediscovers his 2019 form, though, then the Mets will have themselves a guy who will keep his club in games and who knows the terrain and the expectations that come with it for a reasonable price. If the team’s upgraded analytics help Matz move closer to that 2015 peak? Then he’ll become a bargain.

This is far from the most exciting call the Mets will make this winter. It’s the next one on the docket, however, and roster depth will be essential if they want to climb right back into relevance. It’s an easy call for a guy who won’t necessarily present an easy return on investment. And thanks to the Mets’ new status in the baseball world, it’s a call you can make without worrying about the fiscal consequences of those odds turning against them.

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Evan Lewis

With a knack for storytelling, Evan started News Brig about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the Sports,, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.

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