March 2, 2020 | 1:44pm | Updated March 2, 2020 | 3:53pm
PORT ST. LUCIE – Steven Matz might be guaranteed a rotation spot in New York after all this spring.
With the Yankees in a search for starting pitching and the Mets in surplus, the two teams have spoken about potentially moving Matz to the Bronx, according to industry sources. Discussions were preliminary and there is skepticism momentum for a deal will build this early in the calendar.
A void exists in the Yankees’ rotation with Luis Severino finished for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are also without James Paxton, who will be sidelined until at least May after undergoing back surgery. A third starter, Domingo German, has 63 games remaining on an 81-game suspension after violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.
The Mets are among the few teams in baseball with veteran rotation depth, following an offseason in which general manager Brodie Van Wagenen added free agents Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Those signings have left Matz to compete for a rotation spot in spring training.
Among the reasons for skepticism that a deal can be struck is the Mets would seek a major-league-ready position player in return, as opposed to prospects. Miguel Andujar, given his ability to play multiple positions, would likely be a player of interest for the Mets. The belief is the Yankees aren’t desperate enough for a pitcher to part with Andujar.
And then there is the fact the Mets and Yankees have avoided conducting significant business with each other for almost two decades. The two teams were close to a deal at the trade deadline in 2017 that would have sent Jay Bruce to the Yankees, but the proposal fizzled at the last minute, with each side blaming the other.
Matz went 11-10 with a 4.21 ERA in a seesaw 2019 season in which he was briefly sent to the bullpen. Among the options the Mets have discussed is Matz sharing a spot in the rotation with Wacha based on the opponent or using an opener such as Seth Lugo in front of the left-hander.
The danger in trading Matz, especially this early, would be sustaining a rotation injury that would leave the Mets scrambling. Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are among the pitchers in camp with major league starting experience, but neither distinguished himself last season. Former first-round draft pick David Peterson is impressing team officials in spring training, but the left-hander hasn’t pitched above the Double-A level yet.
Lugo could be that rotation depth, but until the Mets have a better feel for how their bullpen will materialize, they are hesitant to view the right-hander as anything but a reliever. If the Mets are happy with the level at which Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson are performing as the season progresses, it could leave them less hesitant to trade Matz, given that Lugo could become rotation depth.