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Steven Matz, St. Louis Cardinals reach agreement on four-year, $44 million deal, sources say

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Starting pitcher Steven Matz, a key component to a turnaround season for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021, has agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, pending a physical, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Tuesday night.

Matz could earn up to $48 million in the deal and will receive a signing bonus, sources said.

Matz, a 6-foot-2 left-hander, found his stride in the American League East, and on a team with a deep starting rotation, he often stole the headlines in Toronto this summer. In just one season with the Blue Jays, he posted a 14-7 record, with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts.

He finished with 150.2 innings of work and 144 strikeouts as Toronto threatened for a playoff berth well into the regular season’s final week. The Blue Jays won six of his final seven starts, and in his last one, Oct. 1, Matz — tabbed one of the team’s “unsung heroes” by manager Charlie Montoyo — pitched seven innings en route to a win over the Baltimore Orioles. Toronto finished 91-71.

“Looking at this team, I’m like, ‘Man, this team is so good. We’re so close’,” Matz told reporters in the final week of the season in Toronto. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team this good.”

Matz, 30, a second-round pick of the Mets in 2009, was one of many pitching prospects New York hoped to build title teams around, along with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. A New York native, Matz seemed destined for success with the Mets, especially after going 4-0 as a rookie in 2015, the same season New York landed in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals.

A string of injury-filled and inconsistent years followed that magical season in Queens, and Matz ended up in a deal with Toronto on Jan. 27. In 2020, his last season with the Mets, Matz finished 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA as he battled shoulder discomfort, eventually being relegated to the bullpen. His two best seasons in New York — apart from his debut campaign — came in 2016 and 2019, when he combined to go 20-18.

But it wasn’t enough to keep him in Queens, as the Mets shipped the veteran — and his $5.2 million salary — away in exchange for some minor-league pitching depth before spring training. The Mets received right-handers Sean Reid-Foley, Josh Winckowski and Yennsy Diaz. Matz received a second chance.

“He’s been one of the unsung heroes here,” Montoyo said in the season’s final week. “Nobody expected him to pitch like that. Almost every time out, he goes five, six innings and keeps us in the game. He’s been really good. Great, actually. Not good, great.”

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Kenneth Moffett, federal mediator of 1981 baseball strike and former MLBPA executive, dies at 90

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Kenneth Moffett, the federal mediator during the 1981 baseball strike who briefly succeeded Marvin Miller as the second head of the players’ association, has died. He was 90.

Moffett died Nov. 19 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, said his wife, the former Mary Taddeo. He had been ill with dementia for about six months and the death certificate cited natural causes, she said Monday.

His death was first reported by The New York Times.

Moffett was part of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in 1980, when baseball players and owners reached an agreement that put off a work stoppage until the following year. As deputy director of the FMCS during the 50-day strike that interrupted the 1981 season, he shuttled between the parties, set up bargaining sessions and suggested frameworks for settlement.

He also worked at the FMCS during the August 1981 strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization against the Federal Aviation Administration. President Ronald Reagan ordered the firing of workers who did not return to their jobs.

Moffett said in 1994 that baseball negotiations were different from all other types of collective bargaining.

“It is done in a fishbowl,” Moffett told The Associated Press. “Every statement, every press release — anything — is for public consumption. In most negotiations, you don’t hear a peep until there’s a settlement.”

As the union’s 1994 strike deadline approached, Moffett said: “My gut reaction is it seems like nothing’s changed. … The issues are still the same.”

Moffett was hired in December 1982 as the second executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and took over on Jan. 1, 1983, when Miller retired ahead of his 66th birthday. Moffett was given a three-year contract but lasted just 10 1/2 months and was fired that Nov. 22 by the union’s executive board.

Donald Fehr, then the union’s general counsel, took over as acting executive director on Dec. 8, became executive director on a full-time basis in January 1986 and held the top spot until retiring in December 2009.

Moffett became assistant to the president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians in 1985. That union merged with the Communications Workers of America in 1994. He retired in 2003 as the CWA’s human resources director.

Moffett is survived by his fourth wife, whom he married in 1999; and three children from his first wife, Barbara: son Kenneth Jr., director of negotiations at the National Treasury Employees Union; son John; and daughter Laura Tornell. Moffett’s three previous marriages ended in divorce.

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The Mets spent, the Yankees didn’t and more

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When MLB free agency began, as I was comparing notes with agents and executives, a popular discussion was how many players would sign big deals before the collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 1. The common opinion was that only a couple of guys would sign for $75 million or more — and some legitimately thought zero would. They also expected slower-than-usual overall volume.

All of that turned out to be … wildly wrong!

Now we’re in the midst of a lockout that will likely freeze the market for months, but before Dec. 1, we had tons of action to a degree that no one expected. Over the course of about three weeks, teams handed out 51 MLB deals with guaranteed money totaling $1.974 billion. If you include extensions occurring in the 2021 calendar year, another $1.655 billion was spent, and nearly $1.1 billion of that went to five players: Byron Buxton, Wander Franco, Jose Berrios, Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis Jr. Let’s go on a journey of the lessons learned from this incredibly entertaining and active first part of the offseason.

The Mets went hard.
The 2021 season didn’t go that well for the New York Mets, who ended the season in third place in the National League East with 77 wins and watched the Atlanta Braves win the World Series. But since the clock turned to November, things have turned around. Robinson Cano‘s season-long suspension ended, Jacob deGrom should be healthy by the time the season starts, and they added Max Scherzer ($130 million guaranteed), Starling Marte ($78 million), Mark Canha ($26.5 million) and Eduardo Escobar ($20 million) in free agency. With these additions, FanGraphs’ depth charts now have the Mets in a dead heat with the best teams in baseball. The Mets, a team that posted 34.6 WAR in 2021, are projected to post 48.0 in 2022 — behind (and just slightly) only the Dodgers and Yankees.

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Buck O’Neil joins Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, others in being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame

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Buck O’Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and three others in being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, a longtime television analyst after his playing days, also were chosen along with Bud Fowler by a pair of veterans committees.

Oliva and Kaat are the only living new members. Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of election.

Kaat pitched 25 seasons with a host of teams, including the Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games. He served as an analyst for the Yankees before moving on to the MLB Network.

The 16-member Early Days and Golden Days committees met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election announcement was originally scheduled to coincide with the big league winter meetings, which were nixed because of the MLB lockout.

The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the ballot, with voting results on Jan. 25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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