The Red Sox could look to boost their starting rotation in free agency this Major League Baseball offseason, and left-hander Steven Matz already has emerged as a name to watch.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported that Matz was expected to meet with teams at the MLB GM meetings on Wednesday. And while the Toronto Blue Jays reportedly remain interested in bringing back the 30-year-old southpaw, the Red Sox could throw their hats into the ring, as well.
Sherman said to keep an eye on the Detroit Tigers before noting the Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and a few others figure to have interest in Matz, who was not extended a qualifying offer by the Blue Jays despite a strong 2021 season.
Matz, a second-round pick in 2009, spent his first six big league seasons with the New York Mets, during which he had varying levels of success. The Mets traded Matz to the Blue Jays this past January after an awful 2020 campaign.
The change of scenery yielded excellent results for the former highly regarded prospect. He posted a 14-7 record, a 3.82 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, a 1.33 WHIP and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings across 29 starts (150 2/3 innings) for the Jays, potentially setting himself up for a fairly lucrative payday on the open market.
MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes this week placed Matz at No. 27 among his top 50 free agents, projecting a three-year, $27 million contract for the veteran lefty.
FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens, meanwhile, ranked Matz at No. 31 while predicting a three-year, $42 million deal.
Matz likely will be more appealing to teams in wake of not receiving a qualifying offer from Toronto, for that means whichever club signs him won’t be required to relinquish draft-pick compensation. Also, he pitched better in the second half — 7-3 record with a 2.91 ERA in 14 starts (74 1/3 innings) after the All-Star break — so there’s a chance he’ll carry that momentum to wherever he lands for 2022.
“He works with four pitches, but his slider has always been below average, and it was by far his worst pitch again in 2021, to the point that maybe he just needs to junk it and work with his fastball, change, and fringe-average curveball,” The Athletic’s Keith Law recently wrote. “For teams that have shifted their pitching model to keep most starters to twice through the order, he’s a good fit, and young enough still that I would consider three years for him at an AAV around $9-10 million.”
All told, Matz, who turns 31 in May, is unlikely to make or break a rotation. But he might return good value when factoring in his upside and potential cost relative to the rest of the starting pitching market. One definitely could do worse in terms of adding a mid- to back-of-the-rotation starter.
If the Red Sox were to add Matz, he’d presumably slot in somewhere behind Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale and possibly Eduardo Rodriguez, should Boston ultimately retain E-Rod in wake of extending him a qualifying offer and reportedly offering a multiyear deal. Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock are among the other internal options to round out Boston’s rotation.