Steven Matz agrees to join Cardinals on four-year, $44M contract

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Steven Matz. (Jon Blacker/CP)

Free-agent left-hander Steven Matz has agreed to a four-year, $44-million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith can confirm.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, who first reported the deal, the contract includes a signing bonus and could reach $48 million if Matz hits other incentives. The agreement is pending a physical.

Matz rebounded last season while with the Toronto Blue Jays, posting a 14-7 record with a 3.82 ERA, 144 strikeouts and 43 walks in 2021.

MLB Network's Jon Morosai says the Blue Jays were ready to give Matz a three-year deal.

The Blue Jays acquired the 30-year-old from the New York Mets last January. Matz spent the first six years of his career in New York and made one start in the 2015 World Series as a rookie.

Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and Matz showed mutual interest in reuniting, but USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports Matz received offers from eight teams.

The 2021 season saw Matz pitch more than 150 innings and throw more than 140 strikeouts for just the third time in his career, behind only his two best seasons in 2018 and '19. His 2020 campaign during the pandemic-shortened season was a disaster, however, where he ballooned his ERA to over nine and only pitched 30.2 innings in nine appearances, six of them starts.

The Cardinals, who made a surprise run to the post-season in 2021, are betting that Matz's 2021 performance is more in tune with his overall abilities than his 2020 dud. In St. Louis, Matz steps into a rotation that includes veteran Adam Wainwright, back for a 17th season, as well as Jack Flaherty, one of the most promising young starters in the National League who battled injuries for much of 2021. Matz will also get to work with future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina for one season after the 39-year-old announced 2022 would be his last.

The loss of Matz will now put further pressure on Blue Jays management to add starting pitching, but the market is continuing to shrink despite a looming work stoppage. The off-season so far has seen a number of talented starters, including Eduardo Rodriguez (Tigers), Justin Verlander (Astros), Kendall Graveman (White Sox) and Anthony DeSclafani (Giants) sign new contracts.

The remaining pool of free agent starters is headlined by Robbie Ray, who is coming off a Cy Young season with the Blue Jays and could be commanding more than the $131 million the Blue Jays just committed to Jose Berrios over a seven-year term. Two other notable starters on the free agent market still are future Hall of Famers Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, both members of the Dodgers at season's end.

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