Mets trade Steven Matz to the Blue Jays
Tuesday was an almost comically busy day around baseball, with Hall of Fame voting as well as the most signings we’ve seen in a single day all winter. So, it’s only natural that things slowed down on Wednesday because there was really no other direction to head. That said, there were still a couple of moves (both involving the Mets) including a trade. In the deal, New York sent left-handed pitcher Steven Matz to Toronto in exchange for a trio of pitching prospects in Sean Reid-Foley, Josh Winckowski, and Yennsy Diaz.
We’ll start with the Blue Jays part of this, because they are obviously more relevant to us here at a a Red Sox site. Toronto has been aggressive this winter in trying to take that next leap forward, but they’ve done so mostly on the offensive side, most notably signing George Springer and Marcus Semien. Their pitching has always been their bigger issue, though, and Matz goes towards trying to help that. He has always looked like he should be a very good pitcher, showing off the stuff that suggests he is capable of reaching those heights. But he’s never put it together. Between him, Robbie Ray, and to some extent Tyler Chatwood, Toronto has added three of those players to their pitching staff. If just one hits and joins Hyun-Jin Ryu and Nate Pearson, they could have a formidable enough rotation to make some real noise in the AL, but it’s a big ask.
On the other side, the Mets had the pitching from which to deal. Their rotation without Matz still includes the best pitcher in the game in Jacob deGrom along with Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi, along with Noah Syndergaard coming back from injury at some point in the summer. There are also conflicting rumors about them potentially being the favorites for Trevor Bauer. So they are able to deal from an area of depth, cut a little payroll for that potential run at Bauer, and get back a trio of fringe-y prospects who are relatively close to the majors. Similar to what I said with the Blue Jays staff, New York really only needs one of those pitchers to hit for this deal to work out in the grand scheme of things.
And then for the Red Sox, one could have looked at Matz as a potential trade target for them as well, but it doesn’t really track for me. For one thing, the Mets got back three pitchers who are close to the majors, including two who have already made their debut. Bosotn doesn’t have that kind of prospect depth. Plus, for as much potential as Matz has, he’s never really shown it on a consistent basis and Boston isn’t really known for getting the most out of those guys. I’m not totally against the idea of making a trade, of course, but I’d prefer the method Boston used on the free agent market, risking only cash rather than prospects.
Mets sign Aaron Loup
Before this trade went down, the Mets were also active in free agency as they added to their bullpen by bringing in left-handed pitcher Aaron Loup. The terms aren’t known at this time, but it’s not expected to be a large price. Loup, now 33, should be a familiar name to Red Sox fans as he has spent the bulk of his career in Toronto. More recently in 2020, he was with the Rays where he pitched outstandingly in the shortened season. Over the course of 24 outings and 25 innings, he pitched to a 2.52 ERA with a 3.83 FIP.
Prior to that, though, Loup has been more of a lefty specialist who had been putting up more average-to-below-average numbers in the latter portion of his Toronto career before missing most of 2019 with injury. The risk is not huge given the presumably small salary, but the expectations should not be those 2020 numbers. That said, this fills a need for the Mets, who have a strong back of the bullpen but also a very right-handed one. As of now, Loup is the only southpaw projected to make the group.
The Red Sox do still need some bullpen help, but I don’t think this one really makes much of a difference. Boston shouldn’t just ignore lefties, but they also don’t really need to look at guys who profile best as a pseudo-specialist. (With the three-batter minimum, true specialists can’t really exist anymore.) With Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor, they have enough help from the left side in the bullpen that they can focus more on talent than handedness.
Yankees sign Darren O’Day
And finally, we have another bullpen signing, this one coming from the Yankees. New York, after trading Adam Ottavino here to Boston, have replaced him in the ‘pen with former Oriole Darren O’Day. The righty will get $1.75 million for 2021 with a player option for 2022. O’Day is another former AL East face who will be returning to the division after spending the bulk of his career in Baltimore. Last year he was in Atlanta, pitching to a 1.10 ERA and a 2.76 FIP over 19 games and 16 1⁄3 innings, a strong performance in a small sample.
O’Day will join a good Yankees bullpen and is another pseudo-specialist, just from the other side of the mound. With his strange sidearm/submarine throwing motion, he is very tough on right-handed hitting. At 38 years old there is real risk here of things just falling off a cliff, but the Yankees have the top-end depth to absorb that. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are probably targeting someone a bit younger if they are even looking to add another bullpen piece at all.