The Braves announced that they have signed the lefty Tyler Matzek to a two-year deal worth $3.1MM. There’s also a $5.5MM club option for 2025 with no buyout. He’ll make $1.2MM in the first year and $1.9MM in the second, according to that Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Matzek had Tommy John surgery in October and will likely miss the entire 2023 season.
Matzek, 32, has been a feel-good story in recent years, as he was away from baseball for a while due to “the yips.” He pitched for the Rockies in 2014 and 2015 but then dealt with control problems so bad that he was relegated to the minors for chunks of the 2016-2019 period, including missing the 2017 season entirely and pitching in indy ball in 2018. He eventually made his way back to the majors and established himself as a useful piece of the Atlanta bullpen. From 2020 to the present, he’s thrown 135 2/3 innings with a 2.92 ERA, 38.2% ground ball rate and 27.4% strikeout rate, despite a high 13.4% walk rate.
Unfortunately, his story hit a snag at the end of this season, as he was left off the club’s NLDS roster due to elbow discomfort. The next day, it was announced that he would require Tommy John surgery. Given the typical 12-18 months required to recover from such a procedure, Matzek will almost certainly miss the entire 2023 campaign.
He went into this winter with just over four years of MLB service time, meaning he still had two more years of club control via the arbitration process. Given the lengthy absence he’s facing, Atlanta could have considered non-tendering him before tonight’s deadline, but they have instead agreed to a contract that will cover both his remaining arb seasons and potentially one free agent year as well. Matzek made $1.4MM in 2022 and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, prior to the Tommy John news, for a bump to $1.8MM. Atlanta will pay Matzek around the same rate he got in 2022 and won’t get anything for that investment in 2023 but could see it pay off down the line. For Matzek, it’s possible that he could have found a somewhat similar deal in free agency, as teams occasionally give two-year deals to injured pitchers even when they know they won’t be healthy for the first one. But he’s decided to stick with an organization he knows, continuing to earn a paycheck while rehabbing with the knowledge that he has a job waiting for him once he’s healthy.