TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have continued their busy offseason by acquiring left-hander Steven Matz from the Mets in exchange for three pitchers, the club announced Wednesday.
The Blue Jays have been one of baseball’s most aggressive teams this offseason, with their headliner being a six-year deal with star outfielder George Springer for a club-record $150 million. They’ve also agreed to terms with Marcus Semien on a reported one-year, $18 million deal and added relievers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood to their bullpen. After these moves, though, the starting rotation stood as their clearest need and Matz is the next step toward addressing that.
Blue Jays get: LHP Steven Matz
Mets get: RHPs Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and Josh Winckowski
A turn to the trade market is sensible at this point in the offseason, too, for the Blue Jays, given that they’ve done the majority of their business via free agency and still have a deep prospect pool to pull from. Speaking earlier Wednesday, club president and CEO Mark Shapiro suggested that there were still options on the table to improve the club after their aggressive free-agent push.
“We’ve got some flexibility, but the bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” Shapiro said. “There still are opportunities for [GM] Ross [Atkins] and our baseball operations group to be creative in what they do.”
Matz, 29, is a former top prospect with the Mets, at one point ranking as high as the No. 15 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline’s 2015 rankings. The lefty has shown flashes since then, but there have been some ups and downs along the way in New York. For his career, Matz owns a 4.35 ERA over 107 starts.
Shoulder discomfort limited Matz to just 30 2/3 innings in 2020 with a 9.68 ERA, but the '18 and '19 seasons paint the most accurate picture of him as a healthy starter. Over those two seasons, Matz averaged 30 starts with a 4.09 ERA. The talent is certainly there for something better, though, and that upside will now be in the trusted hands of pitching coach Pete Walker.
With Hyun Jin Ryu as the rotation’s ace and No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson as the next in line, Matz will join a deep group of middle to back-end starters including Robbie Ray, who returned to the Blue Jays on a one-year, $8 million deal, and Tanner Roark. The Blue Jays also have arms like Ross Stripling, Thomas Hatch, Trent Thornton, Julian Merryweather and Anthony Kay in the picture, so there’s no shortage of options on the back end.
The Blue Jays are expected to remain in the market for other potential rotation upgrades, and opportunities could present themselves through the season leading up to the Trade Deadline, too, given the club’s payroll flexibility and ability to take on contracts.
Reid-Foley is likely the most familiar name to Blue Jays fans after being drafted by the club in 2014 and making appearances in each of the past three seasons. The hard-throwing right-hander owns a career 4.40 ERA in the big leagues and, while Reid-Foley came up as a starter through the Minor Leagues, the Blue Jays saw bullpen potential in him, too, given his fastball and slider combination.
Diaz, the club’s No. 26 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, made his MLB debut with a lone appearance in 2020 and, up to that point, had not pitched above Double-A. A fastball with plenty of tailing action has been Diaz’s best tool through the Minor Leagues. Winckowski, the club’s No. 27 prospect, was a 15th-round pick back in 2016 out of high school but has performed very well in the Minor Leagues, posting a 2.69 ERA between Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin in 2019. Winckowski’s fastball sits near 92 mph and the big right-hander profiles as a starter or long reliever who could carry a heavy workload.
Both Reid-Foley and Diaz had spots on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster prior to the deal. Matz will take one of those while the reported Semien deal, which has not yet been confirmed by the club, is expected to take the other, bringing it back to a full 40.