The trade, which opens a spot in the Mets’ rotation and clears Matz’s $5.2 million salary for 2021, may portend a more serious pursuit of free agent and reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer.
Matz, 29, is coming off an abbreviated 2020 season in which he struggled to the tune of a 9.68 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. Matz managed to allow 14 home runs over that span. Over the balance of his career, he’s been roughly an average-ish starting pitcher with a 91 ERA+ and 3.07 K/BB ratio across parts of six major league seasons. Matz has a long history of elbow and shoulder problems, and he’s never before managed a qualifying number of innings in a season. That said, the Blue Jays, as laudably active as they’ve been this offseason, do need rotation depth, and Matz addresses that need.
Right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski is among the players going back to the Mets in the deal. Winckowski, 22, is a former 15th-rounder who has a 3.35 ERA and 2.76 K/BB ratio in four minor league seasons. Of his 54 games pitched in the minors, 50 have been starts. Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (age 25, 4.40 ERA and 1.58 K/BB ratio in 13 MLB starts and eight relief appearances) and right-hander Yennsy Diaz (age 24, No. 26 on MLB.com’s list of the Jays’ top prospects) are also headed to the Mets in the trade.
As noted above, the Mets may be clearing the decks for a potential Bauer signing. The 30-year-old Bauer is far and away the most coveted arm on the 2020-21 free agent market, and his addition to the rotation behind ace Jacob deGrom would be a huge boon to the Mets’ hopes in 2021 and beyond.
Speaking of which, SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the Mets’ offer to Bauer is for four years or fewer and not at levels that would set the record for highest annual salary (presently Gerrit Cole’s $36 million). However, according to Martino the offer does include at least one opt-out, which would play into Bauer’s possible desire to sign short-term deals. Given the buzz, the Mets’ willingness to invest in the roster under new owner Steve Cohen, and now the Matz swap, they have to be considered the frontrunners for Bauer’s services.