NEW YORK -- Less than a year after leaving his hometown team, Steven Matz could be on his way back to Queens.
The Mets have made a contract offer to the free-agent left-hander, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, and expect to learn of his decision before Thanksgiving. Talks picked up between Matz and his old club shortly after the Mets hired Billy Eppler as their general manager late last week, to the extent that the source gave a reunion “a good chance” of happening. The Mets have not confirmed any discussions.
But plenty of competition remains. As of Monday night, Matz had received eight offers, with the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals and Angels among those teams reportedly interested.
The Mets traded Matz, 30, to the Blue Jays last offseason for pitchers Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Díaz and Josh Winckowski, then they watched him blossom into the type of pitcher they saw only sporadically in New York. Over 29 starts with Toronto, Matz went a career-best 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 144 strikeouts over 150 2/3 innings. Following the season, the Jays opted not to extend Matz an $18.4 million qualifying offer, which could have dampened his market due to the Draft-pick compensation that would have been attached.
Instead, a large group of suitors began chatting with Matz, including the Mets. According to a person familiar with Matz’s thinking, the left-hander enjoyed his time in New York and would welcome a return there, even though he experienced more success upon leaving. Over six seasons with the Mets, Matz went 31-41 with a 4.35 ERA. He credits his improvement last season to factors beyond a change of scenery.
New York’s top pick in the 2009 Draft, Matz attended Ward Melville High School on Long Island, and he still has family in the area, even though he and his wife, Taylor, now live in Nashville. Matz also remains close friends with Jacob deGrom and speaks to him regularly.
“I became a man in that organization,” Matz said following his January trade to the Blue Jays. “From 18 to now almost 30 years old, I was with that organization. I grew up in it. I’m just thankful for the opportunity they gave me. I built a lot of great relationships, had a lot of great experiences, learned a lot from ups and downs and different stuff. I think it was an awesome experience.”
Like most teams on Matz’s list, the Mets could use an infusion of starting pitching. They’ve already lost free agent Noah Syndergaard to the Angels, who also signed reliever Aaron Loup to a two-year deal on Monday evening. And the Mets are no lock to re-sign another free agent starter, Marcus Stroman.
Several other pitchers have already flown off the board, including Eduardo Rodriguez, Justin Verlander and Anthony DeSclafani.
Every returning Mets rotation candidate will enter next season with some sort of question mark, including deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson and Tylor Megill, prompting Eppler to say last week that he is hunting pitching depth.
Matz represents precisely that.
“We want to look for opportunities,” Eppler said. “In my dialogue with [owner] Steve [Cohen] and with [team president] Sandy [Alderson], it’s evident that we’re going to have some resources behind us. So I don’t think anything eliminates itself at the outset here.”