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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Steven Matz

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With the Yankees’ fifth rotation spot still up in the air, the Mets’ lefty makes for an intriguing option

New York Mets left handed pitcher Steven Matz warms up in a spring training workout Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images

With the loss of Luis Severino to Tommy John surgery and the corresponding hole created in the Yankees’ starting rotation, expect to hear ample speculation linking New York to starting pitchers. The latest rumor from Ken Davidoff and Mike Puma of the New York Post explores a potential trade between the New York clubs centered around Steven Matz.

The book on Matz is that he has always been hampered by injuries. A once highly touted prospect, Matz has never quite broken through to the next level of starting pitching consistency. However, his proven ability to perform in New York and his improvements after the 2019 All-Star Game may entice the Yankees.

Matz’s 2019 season was a tale of two halves. He surrendered a 4.89 ERA before the break, but only a 3.52 ERA after. This is largely in part due to his struggles in the first inning. Matz’s first inning numbers improved dramatically in the second half, which coincided with Phil Regan’s interim pitching coach tenure.

Steven Matz first inning - first half

Season Team Team Name Abb IP TBF H R ER HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG ERA w OBA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB% AVG WHIP x FIP FIP HR/FB ]
Season Team Team Name Abb IP TBF H R ER HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG ERA w OBA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB% AVG WHIP x FIP FIP HR/FB ]
2019 NYM NYM 15 79 27 23 20 10 5 14 0.375 0.43 0.875 12 0.518 8.4 3 6 0.1772 0.0633 0.375 2.1333 5.8 11.41 0.43
FanGraphs

Steven Matz first inning - second half

Season Team Team Name Abb IP TBF H R ER HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG ERA w OBA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB% WHIP x FIP FIP HR/FB
Season Team Team Name Abb IP TBF H R ER HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG ERA w OBA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB% WHIP x FIP FIP HR/FB
2019 NYM NYM 14 45 3 1 1 0 1 11 0.07 0.111 0.116 0.64 0.104 7.07 0.64 0 0.24 0.02 0.2857 3.49 2.07 0
FanGraphs
Baseball Savant

Matz fills an immediate need at the back end of the Yankees’ rotation. When healthy, he represents a substantial upgrade over any of the in-house options. A lefty sinkerballer who generates a decent amount of weak contact and a high rate of groundballs (49.4% over the last two seasons), Matz seems tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. He’s a pitcher who also finally appears to be finding his footing, going over 150 innings pitched in consecutive seasons.

From a financial standpoint, Matz is a cheap, controllable pitcher with two years of arbitration eligibility. He’s an affordable option who can anchor the back end of Yankees rotation for the next two years. Furthermore, adding him could lessen the blow of losing Masahiro Tanaka or James Paxton to free agency in the upcoming offseason, as well as cover the departure of J.A. Happ should his option for 2021 not vest.

Why would the Mets be willing to trade Matz? Their rotation is arguably at its strongest in the Jacob deGrom/Noah Syndergaard era, having been bolstered by the additions of Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha in the last year. It is precisely those signings of Porcello and Wacha, as well as Matz’s injury history, that perhaps make him expendable.

Matz himself acknowledged that the Mets’ offseason acquisitions put his status as a starter in question, saying “What I know is we have six starters for five spots.” Matz’s rising arbitration costs, as well as the Mets’ desire to net a return if they don’t think they can retain him in free agency, may motivate the front office to move him this season. The Mets may not want to repeat the same mistake as letting Wheeler walk for free, and Matz’s value is near its apex following two healthy campaigns and availability for two postseason runs under team control.

While the Yankees would no doubt love to acquire a pitcher of Matz’s caliber, there are many barriers to such a trade happening. First is the obvious reluctance of the Wilpons to complete a trade with the Yankees. Second is the steep price required to get the Mets to bite. The crosstown foes would likely ask for at least one major starter, like a Miguel Andujar or a Gio Urshela, and the Yankees have repeatedly proven unwilling to deal players of that quality. Finally, by trading Matz, the Mets would thin their pitching depth which already comes attached with injury concerns.

Brian Cashman is probably doing his due diligence in checking in on Steven Matz’s availability. One can never have too many pitching options, especially with the current looming injury problems. However, Cashman has said the Yankees will likely turn to in-house options to address the fifth starter role, rather than fill it via trade. Add that to the reluctance to add another injury risk to the rotation, and I’d chalk this one up as doubtful.