The New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays have, figuratively, if not literally, exchanged Steven Matz for Marcus Stroman. And while the monetary exchange rate between the United States and Canada is not always fair and equitable, it appears that everyone is getting their money’s worth in this one.
The ties between Matz and Stroman have been well-documented. They were born in the same month of May in 1991. They were friends and teammates on the same travel baseball team. They competed against each other on the scholastic level locally on Long Island, which culminated in a duel between them on April 16, 2009. The two went toe to toe in that one, with Matz earning the win, thanks to a dropped third strike thrown by Stroman that allowed the winning run to score.
Matz was selected in the second round of the draft by the Mets soon after. He dealt with arm issues and surgery as he moved up the minor league ladder. Stroman was selected in the 18th round by the Washington Nationals but, instead, accepted a scholarship to Duke University where he pitched in the highly competitive ACC. The Toronto Blue Jays made him their first pick of the 2012 draft.
Stroman made it to the big time first, in 2014, winning 11 games with a 3.65 ERA. A year later, Matz arrived to huge fanfare during the Mets pennant run in 2015, going 4-0 with an ERA of 2.27 in six starts. Stroman had an identical 4-0 mark with a 1.67 ERA. Both were to play a role in their respective team’s bid for a World Championship.
The New York Mets had very high hopes for Steven Matz
Matz was hailed as one of the “fantastic five” along with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom who were all going to form the best starting rotation ever assembled. Meanwhile, north of the border, Stroman was thought to be the next ace of the Blue Jays staff.
But somewhere along the way, things went awry.
In 2017, Matz went 2-7 with an ERA of 6.08. The following season, he sported a record of 5-11 and an ERA of 3.97. After rebounding a bit in 2019 going 11-10 and a less then awe-inspiring ERA of 4.21, Matz totally bottomed out in the shortened season of 2020, with a dreadful record of 0-5 and horrifying ERA of 9.68.
Stroman’s troubles began in 2018 when he went 4-9 with an ERA of 5.54. But it appears more likely that he wore out his welcome beyond that, having had issues with banned substances that led to a suspension early on, and then butting heads with management.
So the Blue Jays decided to rid themselves of Stroman and he was briefly reunited with Matz during the 2019 season. Stroman made the decision to sit out the 2020 pandemic-altered season while Matz imploded.
Stroman decided to re-sign with the Mets for the 2021 season and the Mets, well, they decided it would be best to rid themselves of Matz, resolving that he would never be what he was believed to be when they drafted him.
So the Blue Jays and the Mets exchanged headaches and disappointments. But what is there to be disappointed about?
After this past weekend, Matz is sporting a 3-0 record and 1.47 ERA after three starts with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings with the Blue Jays.
Stroman? Well, he too is sporting a 3-0 record with a minuscule 0.90 ERA after HIS three starts with the Mets.
It has been obvious that Matz has a world of talent. And lefthanded pitchers with that kind of talent are highly coveted. But it also became obvious that it wasn’t going to happen for him with the Mets. I keep hearing in my head what Mets GM Bob Scheffing said about some guy named Nolan Ryan: “But we’ve had him three full years and, although he’s a hell of a prospect, he hasn’t done it for us. How long can you wait?”
While I don’t think the Mets were quite on target with Ryan at the time, I have to believe that, for the sake of Steven Matz, he needed the change of scenery to get away from the extraordinary pressure of playing in New York. Matz doesn’t have the personality of a Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard…he doesn’t seem to relish being portrayed as the Dark Night or Thor. He seems like he is just happy blending into the woodwork.
On the other hand, Stroman seems to relish being in the spotlight. He doesn’t exactly shy away from the attention. The added pressure doesn’t seem to have affected him. On the contrary, it seems to have fueled him to better his performance.
Perhaps both Matz and Stroman are in a better place. Playing for the Blue Jays could be just what put Matz at ease and allows his talents to dominate. A personality like Stroman’s is made for New York, it obviously was not suited for Toronto…or Toronto wasn’t suited for him?
So while it wasn’t a straight trade by definition, the swap of the two guys from Long Island just could be a perfect exchange rate between the U.S. and Canada.