Tyler Matzek hadn’t thrown a Major League inning since the 2015 season, yet the southpaw has been a huge contributor to the Braves’ 2020 bullpen, posting a 2.79 ERA, 4.30 K/BB rate, and 13.3 K/9 over 29 regular season innings, and adding three shutout innings of work thus far in the playoffs. Matzek’s five-year absence from the big leagues was marked by a 2017 spent entirely out of baseball, and then a stint pitching for the independent Texas AirHogs in 2018 and 2019 that got his career on track. As AirHogs general manager Nate Gutierez told Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Matzek’s mindset heading to indy ball, “some guys come in defeated….When Tyler came in, we had open and honest conversations with him about where he was, which was a ways away from where he thought he needed to be.”
- Matzek’s emergence further strengthen a bullpen that was one of the league’s best in 2020. Also instrumental at the end of games for manager Brian Snitker are Chris Martin and Mark Melancon, a pair of relievers originally acquired around the 2019 trade deadline. Those are among a series of moves the Alex Anthopolous-led front office has made to fortify the pitching staff over the past couple seasons, as Buster Olney of ESPN explores. Even more impactful, perhaps, are potential moves Atlanta didn’t make, as Olney notes that opposing teams tried to buy low on Max Fried and Kyle Wright after they started their careers with somewhat mixed results. To their credit, the Braves obviously stood pat on both pitchers, which has proven especially beneficial in Fried’s case.
- There’s a widespread industry expectation teams will curtail spending this offseason in the wake of this year’s pandemic-driven revenue losses. That cost consciousness could manifest itself in plenty of extension offers for teams’ top young players, Olney further reports. The early career extension is hardly a new phenomenon; players like Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Scott Kingery have inked different variations of that type of deal in recent years. Olney expects an uptick in those kinds of offers in the coming months, with teams looking to lock in long-term cost certainty wherever possible. The Acuña and Albies deals demonstrate the massive returns on investment teams can reap when they strike early on the right players.
- The Mariners will have some decisions to make in advance of this offseason’s deadline to protect players from the Rule V draft, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times explores. Taylor Trammell, Juan Then and Sam Delaplane are obviously going to be protected, Divish feels, but reliever Wyatt Mills and corner infielder Joe Rizzo present tougher calls. One other key roster decision will involve right-hander Kendall Graveman’s $3.5MM club option, Divish notes. The 29-year-old’s overall season numbers weren’t particularly impressive, but Graveman seemingly found another gear working out of the bullpen down the stretch.