The Mets should think twice before trading Steven Matz

Lefties are an odd bunch. So in demand, yet, as prospects, they often don’t develop as predictably as their right-handed counter parts. While some elite lefties come out of the gate strong like Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Cole Hamels, many need a few years to find their groove. Be it mechanics, control or injuries, even some Hall of Fame lefties struggled in their first few seasons in the big leagues.

Randy Johnson went on to become perhaps the most dominant left-handed pitcher in MLB history, yet in his first three seasons, over 65 starts, he amassed a 1.4 WHIP and 4.03 ERA. Early in his career, the Big Unit struggled mightily with control, leading the league three times in walks and twice in batters hit by pitch.

Other great lefties who got off to tough starts include Cliff Lee, Tom Glavine, Dallas Keuchel, Jon Lester and Johan Santana. But, for comparison sake, the player who Steven Matz may best resemble on paper is our old friend Al Leiter. The lefty starter won 162 games with a 3.80 ERA over a 19-year big league career, including some impressive post season highlights. However, he too got off to a rocky start in the Majors. In his first few years as a Yankee, Leiter struggled to stay healthy with a laundry list of nagging injuries that had him shuttling back and forth between the disabled list, the bullpen, AAA and the big league rotation.

After a few more injury riddled seasons in Toronto, Leiter finally became a rotation mainstay at age 28. However it took him a few more seasons to get his walks down (he also led the league in that category a few times) to really become an effective pitcher. From age 29 through 39, spanning the last 11 seasons of his career, Leiter never made fewer than 26 starts and his ERA was below 3.5 in six of those seasons.

Through three partial seasons and now 26 years old, Matz owns a 3.99 ERA through 41 starts. While he shares the same pitching hand, local roots, and early injury history as Leiter, Matz possesses both better velocity and control. He also, by all accounts, is mechanically sound. It’s hard to say if 2018 will be his breakout year, but if any player on the Mets screams “don’t trade me or I’ll blossom with another team” it’s Matz.

25 comments for “The Mets should think twice before trading Steven Matz

  1. November 24, 2017 at 8:48 am

    You can’t trade a maybe for a proven player let alone a decent prospect. So I would like to think that the FO has the patience on this matter Matt. Maybe the Mets sign the kid from Japan? Who knows.

  2. November 24, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Mets can afford to wait on Matz. They can trade Lugo, Gsellman and Montero to pitching desparate teams.
    Keep Matz and hope for the best with new manager, who is supposed to be some pitching ‘guru’, and Dave Eiland new pitching coach.

  3. Rabbit
    November 24, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Can Matz make 20 starts or even pitch 100 innings. If someone wants to roll the dice on him and offer a good young player they have to listen.

  4. Fletcher Rabbit
    November 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

    i guess baseball didnt exist for this “expert” prior to 1980. otherwise he might know of a couple of other southpaws whose careers fit his argument: fellas named spahn and koufax — ever heard of them, mr netter?

    • November 24, 2017 at 9:52 am

      It’s not required that the author reference every single person who fits the bill in the history of MLB and why you think that’s so is beyond me. If you think mentioning two guys from 50 years ago makes you look like a superior intelligent being – I hate to inform you but it doesn’t. What it makes you look like is someone who is incredibly petty and a person that respectable people would go out of their way to avoid at social gatherings.

      • Scott P
        November 24, 2017 at 10:05 am

        I think Mr. Rabbit makes an excellent point. Since this is a forum to discuss and inform it can educate younger and less experienced fans. So Brian be careful, because you seem pretty petty to those of us who know the past and appreciate that generation of players.

        • November 24, 2017 at 10:29 am

          So what he was doing was education? I don’t believe that for one second.

          But tell you what – I’ll play along. Think back to when you were in school. I know when I was in school there were teachers who were miserable pricks and there were teachers who inspired great love of learning. I didn’t care much for the former group, the ones who were more interested in showing you how “smart” they were rather than doing any actual teaching.

          If he’s really interested in education – he shouldn’t look to put down the ones he feels need schooling.

          In the Comment Policy, we have laid out what’s acceptable and what isn’t here when commenting. Fletcher didn’t violate those terms and his post was allowed to stand. But if you come here and act like a jerk – don’t be surprised when you’re told that.

          • Scott P
            November 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

            I agree he could have been a little less accusatory. I do believe the pitchers mentioned made a point, however Spahn and Koufax are foundational lefties and should have been mentioned in the article. Baseball has a rich history and writers (not us bloggers or repliers like us) need to do their research. Not mentioning those two icons shows a lack of knowledge or diligence.

            I am not disrespecting you or the author. I am not going to argue what Mr. Rabbits intentions were, but I would like to see deeper research and more thorough articles.

            • November 24, 2017 at 11:08 am

              We have many different types of articles here at the site, including (but not limited to) “Perspectives,” “Minor Leagues” and “Card of the Week.” If this had been a “History” piece and he didn’t mention those guys, I might agree with you. But he mentioned seven different players who fit the type!!! For crying out loud – he made his point and complaining that he didn’t mention two more is nit picking of the worst kind.

              And Warren Spahn’s delayed ascension to being a quality pitcher had everything to do with World War II, which has absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening with Matz. So not only is this a case of extreme nit picking, it’s also not even an apt comparison.

              Edit: Corrected the number of people Matt mentioned who fit the type.

    • MattyMets
      November 24, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      Koufax you say? Sorry Fletch, never heard of him.

      If you’ve ever read my posts before you’d know I have a deep appreciation for baseball lore, especially pitching. I’ve read many books on the subject. As Brian pointed out, this is a blog post, not a thesis. If you want to read about The Brooklyn Dodgers try books by one of the great Rogers – Kahn or Angell.

      • Jimmy P
        November 25, 2017 at 8:55 am

        I don’t think Koufax pitched for those Dodgers.

  5. Tim Donner
    November 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Excellent piece. Agree on most everything, in addition to the fact that Matz has low value right now…the worst time to trade a guy with a ceiling as high as him.

    • Scott P
      November 24, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      If we had been talking about home run hitters, would leaving off Babe Ruth or Hank Arron been OK?

      BTW I did love this forum and I have been an avid reader for some time of the website. This was my first comment ever. You have bullied me into realizing I am not worthy of an opinion. So take the last word. Good bye.

      • November 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm

        If he was talking a contemporary power hitter and mentioned Stanton, Judge, Davis, Gallo, Bellinger, Cruz and Smoak — I wouldn’t feel the need to continue to mention everyone who’s ever hit a homer in MLB history.

        Typically, if you name three players or items in a comparison — that’s plenty of people to get across your point.

        If you want to take your ball and go home, that’s your right. If you expect me to shed a tear – well, that’s not going to happen.

  6. Chris F
    November 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Any GM would be dumb not to listen to trade options for every single player on the team, Matz included. Its not worth imagining trading Matz for a ?. If someone said we would trade Matz for Sale, Id have the podium set up before they could finish the sentence.

    Matz has value, but right now its pretty minimal. Trading him today would be for the purpose of filling a higher need or because he isnt part of the future. I could see any of the three options today.

    Matz needs to be healthy. At first I did not buy that he’s an injury risk, but that clearly is the case. He will be pitching most of next year at age 27, only having reached >100 IP one time. Objectively, there is not a lot of reason to be overly confident with his health. I laugh at the “same as deGrom surgery” as if its like fixing a car engine…all people are different, and his internal structure is not deGrom’s; one does not predict the other other than proving the experience of a single individual.

    We have to move on from the feelings of Murphy and Turner. Quite frankly neither were particularly predicable, especially turner who was blocked from daily play by Wright. We have gone round and round with Murphy, yes, its a shame. There was absolutely zero evidence what was going to happen with him. There is absolutely no connection between those events and Matz, so they are wholly irrelevant.

    This team cant live in fear of making moves because someone “might” finally live up to what we dreamed of on another team. That happens. Look at Cespedes, the main internal reason the Mets went to the WS in ’15. He was out of his mind after the trade. These things happen. Keep him, trade him…I dont care as long as he or his trade partner perform. Falling in love with our players is a big mistake. Its about the name on the front, not the name on the back.

  7. Eraff
    November 24, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    The Old saw about slow developing lefty pitchers does not seem to match Matz’s career arc…. he’s appeared to be well developed and ready to pitch when Healthy. Matz doesn’t face “Lefty Challenges”—he has Left Arm Problems

    I think that Matz and Harvey are kind of like Lottery Tickets—they can pay off big, but they are cheap to buy and trade—no sense in sending them off for very little.

  8. Metsense
    November 24, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Steve Matz has four years of team control and that this why he could not be be traded this winter unless they receive a ridiculous offer (which they won’t). Last year he foolishly pitched while injured. A recovered Matz should be able to win the 4/5 spot but he should not be expected to equal his 2016 numbers. Health is what is holding Matz back but the Mets have the “controllable time” not to force the issue and make the same mistake like they did last summer.

    • November 24, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      Didn’t TC admonish Matz to reporters criticizing him for not learning how to pitch through the pain? I thought that in itself was criminal and self serving.

  9. Jimmy P
    November 24, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Far too much potential to trade away now when his market value is so low.

    You hold on to guys like this and hope for the best.

    I think Harvey is a little different, because he’s only around for one more year, and he’s earning more money. But like Matz, I still think it’s possible he turns in a positive 2018 season — another case where you’d have to sell when the stock is very low.

  10. MattyMets
    November 24, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Baseball history is littered with once promising arms who had a good year or two then had their careers destroyed by injuries. Odds are a few of the guys on the Mets roster will join that list. However, I mean to point out that there is also a shorter list of guys like Al Leiter, who struggled early on with injuries, but straightened out and had really good careers.

  11. Eraff
    November 24, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    The Guys who best recover from “Lost Ability” are guys who were good pitchers before injury sapped some of their ability. Matz and Harvey are very good Pitchers. Harvey, especially, has a chance to recover a high level of production because of his experience and sheer pitching skill…he can recover to a very high level post injury.

  12. Mike Walczak
    November 27, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I wouldn’t trade him. Nolan Ryan was really wild on his early days and the Mets traded him for a junker named Fregosi. Ouch.

    Or how about the Dodgers trading Pedro to the Expos.

    Or what if he goes to Tampa in a deal for Archer.

  13. Eraff
    November 28, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Doug Fister at 4 million?………. seems like a good value shot. I’m guessing that the Mets are out on SP’s— Infield, RP’s and Bench are the themes

  14. Eraff
    November 28, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Brian— would you consider open Chat, similar to game nights? It might be an interesting way to go thru the Hot Stove Season.

    • Chris F
      November 28, 2017 at 9:31 am


      Chat is always open. When we dont have a new link some of us have just gone to the last link available and pick up where we left off. For hot stove, thats kind of cumbersome to be sure as the link goes backward some distance.

      But I agree, would be fun during winter meetings and ST!

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