It was very inconsiderate of the Cardinals to wait until after Allen Medlock and I had finished our latest Meet Me at Musial before finalizing their first big free agent signing of the winter. While we briefly touched on Steven Matz, we would have done a lot more discussion had we known that he was the newest St. Louis Cardinal.
The Cardinals had said that they wanted to get something done by Thanksgiving and Matz had been reported to want to sign before then as well, so it’s not terribly surprising that this came about last night. The two sides agreed on a four year contract worth $44 million. It’s a longer deal than I had expected but Matz is just 30 and so it shouldn’t be a huge issue. At that cost, it’s not going to be much of an albatross either. $11 million a year, $12 million if he hits his incentives, won’t be an issue even if the game’s economics change with the new CBA, whenever that gets agreed upon.
As for Matz, he’s a fine addition but he’s not the centerpiece of an offseason and I hope the front office isn’t planning on him to be that. He throws a sinker most of the time, which is going to be a good thing in front of this defense. He’s not a soft tosser per se, usually getting at least eight strikeouts per nine, but he is a strike thrower which seems to be a renewed focus of the front office after watching the first three months of Cardinal baseball last year. In 2018 he walked 8.9% of batters faced which was his career high. It has dropped every year since then, hitting 6.6% last year.
So what does the rotation look like now? You would figure, to start the season, it’s Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Matz, Miles Mikolas, and Dakota Hudson. Which is not a bad rotation but I would hope that this signing would not preclude them from continuing to engage with Marcus Stroman or Max Scherzer. (If they do feel like this is what they want to run with, I would then hope they’d beef up the offensive side.) The depth for the rotation is still limited. You have Jake Woodford, who did do well in the latter part of the season, Johan Oviedo, who still seems like he needs to work on his control, Matthew Liberatore, who probably could still use a little seasoning, and then what–Alex Reyes? That’s a whole can of worms in and of itself. Getting another starter and moving Hudson to a bullpen/swingman role would be ideal in my book.
That said, they are probably done with starters with this move unless something falls into their lap. The Cards have never been great about “getting as much talent as possible and sorting it out later” and I can’t imagine they’d really like to have Hudson not start on a regular basis next year Of course, relying on Wainwright to continue to be superhuman and Mikolas to stay healthy might be a little optimistic as well.
As we said last night on the show, moves like this make me think that the powers that be in baseball don’t expect the lockout to be crippling or for the rules of the game to change drastically. We’ll see if that’s true. Until then, welcome to Mr. Matz and we hope your time in St. Louis is wonderful!