(KMOV.com) -- The St. Louis Cardinals have jumped into hot stove action with both feet, reportedly signing a veteran starting pitcher to a four-year contract.
Multiple reports Tuesday night indicate that the Cardinals are signing left-handed pitcher Steven Matz to a four-year deal worth $44 million. Matz, who began his career with the New York Mets, pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021.
Left-hander Steven Matz and the St. Louis Cardinals are in agreement on a four-year, $44 million contract, pending physical, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Matz is coming off a career-best season and has a chance to get to $48 million and will receive a signing bonus.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 24, 2021
After dealing with various injuries throughout his big-league career, Matz reminded the baseball world what he could do with a clean bill of health this past season in Toronto, posting a 14-7 record with a 3.82 ERA in 150.2 innings pitched. The 30-year-old also posted a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.79, which indicates his sturdy performance in the ERA category wasn't propped up by an extreme reliance upon the quality of the defense behind him. And in St. Louis, of course, he's going to benefit from arguably the most impactful defensive alignment in the sport.
For the Cardinals, Matz fills a notable hole in the middle of the club's rotation following the departures of Kwang Hyun Kim, J.A. Happ and Jon Lester in free agency. Matz also has something in common with that trio of departing pitchers, as he slots in as an all-important lefty to help bring better balance to the St. Louis rotation. At present, the Cardinals rotation figures to be some combination of Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and the newly-acquired Matz.
The risk in the contract, if you're looking for the way this goes wrong for St. Louis, is Matz's lengthy injury history. He dealt with arm issues frequently in the early days of his big-league career. Recent seasons, however, have proven much more favorable for Matz in the availability department. The lefty logged 30 or more starts in both 2018 and 2019, before making nine starts in the COVID-shortened 2020. Last year, Matz started 29 games and averaged a shade over five innings per start.
The perceived questions about Matz's reliability moving forward likely contributed to making the value of this contract a pretty reasonable one for the team. Whereas in previous winters the Cardinals have doled out sizable commitments to middling relievers--the Andrew Miller deal is one example--the Matz deal is an opportunity to gain the benefit of a quality starting pitcher at a price that won't be debilitating to the payroll.
The reported $11 million average annual value of the Matz deal leaves the Cardinals ample payroll flexibility to pursue additional roster upgrades throughout the remainder of the off-season.
Though Cardinals fans had been clamoring for the addition of a high-priced ace pitcher like Max Scherzer or Marcus Stroman this winter, the Matz move represents a need filled at a reasonable price point. The Cardinals began the off-season with one clear hole in the rotation. Tuesday, they filled it in time to take a break from the frenzy of activity over this week's Thanksgiving holiday.
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