NL Central Notes: Matz, Perez, Pirates, Reds Deadline

Steven Matz suffered a torn left MCL in late July, leading to fear that the left-hander’s season would possibly be over, even if surgery wasn’t required.  However, Matz is now making increased progress towards a return, with Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol telling reporters (including’s John Denton) that Matz’s knee was pain-free while fielding some grounders on Wednesday.  Matz also threw 30 pitches off the mound during the warm-up session.  It could mean that Matz is nearing a minor league rehab assignment, though the Cardinals will continue to closely monitor his status considering his lack of workload.

Matz has pitched just once since May 22, as a shoulder impingement kept him on the injured list for almost two months, and he then suffered his MCL injury in his first start back off the IL.  St. Louis has Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, and trade deadline acquisitions Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana all thriving in the rotation, so if Matz is able to return, he could be used in a bullpen role or competing with Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford, or another rehabbing starter in Jack Flaherty for that final spot in the rotation.  The Cardinals could potentially also explore using a six-man rotation down the stretch, or perhaps just give some of their regulars some rest if the Cards can clinch the NL Central title relatively early.  With a 17-5 record thus far in August, the Cards have opened up a 5.5-game lead over the struggling Brewers in the division race.

Some other items from around the Central…

  • Roberto Perez believes “there’s interest from both parties” in a new deal between the Pirates and the veteran catcher, Perez told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).  Perez inked a one-year, $5MMM free agent contract with the Pirates last winter, but played in only 21 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left hamstring.  The catcher confirmed that his season is indeed over, as he had been hoping to make enough rehab progress to return for the final few games of the schedule.  Re-signing Perez would add a seasoned backstop to a Pittsburgh catching mix that doesn’t include a lot of big league experience, though the Bucs are hoping that if all goes well, former first overall pick Henry Davis might be able to make his MLB debut before the 2023 season is up.
  • The Reds dealt away Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Brandon Drury at the trade deadline, in a flurry of rebuilding moves that added a lot of depth and quality to Cincinnati’s farm system.  Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer explores the front office’s approach to the deadline, which first included some last-minute contract extension talks with Castillo and Drury’s representatives.  When those talks didn’t result in much progress, the Reds shifted focus to the trade market, with GM Nick Krall noting that the interest in Castillo allowed them to make high initial asks.  If other clubs weren’t open to that first ask, “then we can just move on….It was a pretty good way to trim the number (of teams) down from the very beginning,” Krall said.  Cincinnati had always targeted Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo when speaking with the Mariners, and both of those highly-regarded infield prospects ended up included in the package the Reds received for Castillo.  The Reds also had several offers on the table for Mahle and Drury, with the front office ultimately deciding that the offers from the Twins (for Mahle) and Padres (for Drury) were the best of the group.

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