“Of course, being from New York, all my friends are either Yankees or Mets fans,” Matz said Tuesday morning, before leaving the Mets’ complex early due to illness. “That was the only thing. I understand the rumor mills, and unless I hear it myself, I’m not going to acknowledge it.”
The Yankees have had an obvious need for starting pitching since Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery last week, and the Mets feature a clear surplus; right now, they have six starters in camp vying for five spots. Matz said thoughts of a trade initially went through his mind in December, when general manager Brodie Van Wagenen signed Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello to one-year deals. But he has not thought about it much since reporting to camp, as he focuses on trying to win a rotation job.
“As the offseason goes along, those thoughts cross your head,” Matz said. “But like I said, I think Brodie is a pretty good communicator with that stuff. Whatever transpires, I think he would come to me and tell me.”
Van Wagenen has said nothing to Matz about a potential trade. What’s more, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman insisted Tuesday that he has not talked “to anybody” about trade proposals.
“We have not reached out to one club looking for anything,” Cashman said. “So I can tell you at this stage, we have not engaged with any team about, ‘What do you [have] available? What are you trying to do?’ It’s pretty early and we might very well have all the answers in camp. Doesn’t mean we won’t [reach out], but we’re still trying to determine what we have and what we don’t have in terms of the alternatives. And we like what we see.”
It’s unlikely the Yankees will pursue any sort of trade before mid- to late-March, Cashman said, if they do so at all. Most likely, the GM continued, the trade market for starting pitchers does not typically begin to develop until June. In the interim, the Yankees can rely on some combination of Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King and others to fill out their rotation.
“Usually the way the segments of a season go [are], once you hit Spring Training, that next window of opportunity doesn’t usually present itself until after the Draft, unless somebody’s dumping money,” Cashman said. “Again, I understand I’ve got a job to do, and I’m sure I’ll start running into or hearing conversations from our scouts more down the line than right now.”
Even then, the odds of a Matz trade appear slim. While the Mets do have a surplus of big league starters, they have not stockpiled abnormal amounts of upper-level depth beyond that. The next three pitchers on their rotation hierarchy -- David Peterson, Stephen Gonsalves and Walker Lockett -- have started four games combined in the big leagues. Given that, a single injury could quickly dry up the Mets’ excess.
In addition to a straight fifth-starter competition between Matz and Wacha, the Mets have discussed multiple creative options for their pitching surplus, including a scenario in which they mix and match starters based on opponents.
The team has also hesitated to trade with its crosstown rival in the past, despite myriad discussions over the years. The Mets and Yankees have not swapped big league players in a trade since 2004, when Mike Stanton went to the Bronx for Felix Heredia.
Matz, a Long Island native who has been in the Mets organization since the team drafted him in 2009, is unlikely to be the next to go. After battling injuries throughout his early career, he has developed into a durable rotation member, starting 30 games in each of the past two seasons. Over that stretch, Matz is 16-21 with a 4.09 ERA, though he went 6-4 with a 3.47 mark last July through September. He is still under team control for two more seasons, making $5 million this year through arbitration.
“Unless I hear it myself, I’m not going to acknowledge it,” Matz said. “Brodie would let me know if something was actually unfolding.”