The first major Blue Jays free agent domino has fallen.
A week before an impending MLB lockout, Steven Matz has decided on his 2022 baseball home. The 2021 Blue Jay has signed a four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, per Jeff Passan and others.
Matz's new deal will pay him an average annual value of $11 million per year, with the opportunity to receive up to $4 million in bonuses, per Passan.
Matz entered 2021 after the worst season of his career, allowing 14 homers in six 2020 starts while posting a 9.68 ERA. In 2021, the lefty cut his ERA down to 3.82, delivering the Blue Jays 150.2 innings, striking out 144 batters, and holding opposing hitters to one of the lowest home run rates of his career.
Matz's 2021 resurgence came on the back of some batted-ball and home run bad luck normalizing, minor adjustments in his approach, and a reliance on his core sinker/slider repertoire. His strong rebound with the Blue Jays positioned him in contention for a qualifying offer, but Toronto elected not to offer him the one-year, $18 million deal after discussing a multi-year offer with the pending free agent.
Matz is the first Blue Jay free agent to sign this offseason, with headliners Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien yet to ink new deals. The Blue Jays remained in contact with Matz and were one of several teams in contention for the lefty ahead of his decision Wednesday. Per MLB Network's Jon Morosi, Toronto offered Matz a three-year deal.
"In an ideal world," GM Ross Atkins said, the Blue Jays will add two starting pitchers to their rotation. With Matz moving to the National League, at least one of those ideal additions will now likely be a new face.
H/T Jeff Passan