Following a disappointing 2020 campaign, the New York Mets must move pitcher Steven Matz to the bullpen in 2021.
Earlier this week, the MLB announced two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom as a finalist for a third-straight year. deGrom has been the New York Mets ace for years now, as multiple pitchers have followed him in one of the better rotations in baseball. That is, except for 2020.
The Mets’ injury troubles returned in the COVID-19 abbreviated season. Prior to Opening Day, Noah Syndergaard was set to undergo Tommy John surgery, while Marcus Stroman dealt with injuries of his own. Before even making a start, Stroman opted out, leaving without a number two starter.
This put all eyes on 29-year old Steven Matz to finally become a consistent starter.
Instead, the Long Island native wound up being the biggest liability of the entire staff. Matz posted an abysmal 0-5 record thanks to a 9.68era and 14 home runs given up in only 30.2 innings pitched. By the end of the season, the team shifted Matz to the bullpen.
Since the conclusion of the season, there have been questions as to what the Mets should do with Matz in 2021. However, none may be more useful than keeping Matz on the roster – just in the bullpen.
This would not be the first time the Mets turn a starter into an effective reliever. Seth Lugo has proven to be one of the best in baseball out of the pen, and Robert Gsellman has shown to be a trusted arm too. It would not be Matz’s first rodeo either in a bullpen role. Between 2019 and 2020, he made five appearances out of the bullpen, pitching six innings. In a small sample size he has posted a 6.00era, although, using him as a long-reliever in low-stakes situations to start could be exactly what he needs.
When it comes to moving Matz to the bullpen, there are two key factors to keep in mind. First, the Mets need to replace their top lefty arm, Justin Wilson. Over the past two seasons, Wilson has posted a 2.91era, which could prevent the Mets from retaining him. By keeping Matz in the bullpen, it gives them two experienced lefties in Matz and Chasen Shreve.
Secondly, the Mets are in no position to deal a relatively cheap (due about $5-million in 2021) and valuable pitcher. Matz has logged over 100 career starts with a career 4.35era. Yes, nobody can deny the former top prospect has been disappointing as a starter. Yet given the Mets’ recent injury woes, stashing Matz as an emergency starter is a smart move.
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When Opening Day 2021 rolls around, barring an undeniable trade, Steven Matz should be a New York Met. Between their need for reliable bullpen arms and his experience as a starter, the stars align for the Mets to keep Matz around a little bit longer.