The Toronto Blue Jays have made attempts, in recent days, to upgrade various parts of their roster, mostly on the promotional side of things.
While arguments can be made that not enough has been done to make the team a legitimate contender for the world championship, there is no doubt that they avoided what could have been a critical off-season mistake.
It felt like a fatal blow when Stephen Matz signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals after a fantastic 2021 season with Toronto, but ineffectiveness and injury proved the organization dodged a bullet.
Blue Jays: Thank you Matz
Jays entered the winter with three major free agents from the 2021 squad, AL Cy Young award-winning Robbie Ray, MVP runner-up Marcus Simin, and Matz, who won 14 games last season.
He thought that one or maybe two of these players could be kept. When the Texas Rangers stepped up and signed 31-year-old Simeon on a massive seven-year deal, it hurt, but the size and duration of the agreement made up for some disappointment.
When Ray signed his mega deal with the Mariners, the front office already had the inside track to land Kevin Gusman. Although it’s the first of nearly identical five-year contracts, the Gausman was the best pitcher of 2022 and a spin-stabilizing force.
Matz was actually the first to sign, in late November, and his departure meant the Jays were looking for another rookie, preferably left-handed. This led them to sign with Yusei Kikuchi, and although his season has been adventurous, he has been cruising smoothly compared to Matz.
He was hit hard in his debut as a Cardinal with nine strokes and seven runs. Matz went on to give up at least four winning runs in three of his first six starts. Despite the inconsistency of his performance, it was his lack of availability that made his signature a disappointment.
After two decent matches in May, Matz was put on the list with a shoulder injury that kept him off the hill for two months.
July 23 was his first game, and to add to the suffering, Matz was dealing when a routine ground ball landed on the first base line. The left-handed tried to show the ball, mishandled it, stumbled out of play, and extended his left knee excessively.
The play led to a rupture of the MCL and another assignment in the IL. Surgery or prolonged rest and recovery may be required. Either way, Matz’s season may have ended after 42.2 rounds and 5.70 ERA.
If held, Blue Jays will likely need to trade for two starting pitchers by the deadline. Given the asking price of some of the best players available, that would leave them with a much more empty pool of potential customers, or having to settle for the low-tier option.
There are many question marks swirling after Gusman and Alec Manouh. Kikuchi at least has a chance of getting a solid end to the season and Mitch White has the potential to be able to fill this season and part of the solution going forward.