Braves sign Tyler Matzek to two-year contract

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

As Friday’s deadline for MLB teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players approached, the Braves didn’t seem to have a likely non-tender candidate.

If you had to pick one, it might have been left-handed reliever Tyler Matzek, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October, meaning he’ll miss the entire 2023 season based on the timeline for rehab and recovery after that procedure.

Hours before the deadline, the Braves removed any potential doubt with Matzek’s situation (not that there was any). They also solidified his future.

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The Braves on Friday signed Matzek to a two-year, $3.1 million deal. It includes a $5.5 million club option with no buyout for the 2025 season.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Matzek will make $1.2 million in 2023 and $1.9 million in 2024. The contract covers Matzek’s final two years of arbitration.

By doing this deal, the Braves also sent another message about how they operate. They take care of their players.

Since Alex Anthopoulos began leading baseball operations for the Braves, he’s prioritized making his organization a place where players want to play. The latest example: Matzek won’t pitch an inning next season, but will still get paid and know he’ll be in Atlanta in 2024, too. That’s probably comforting security for Matzek as he focuses on his rehab.

But the Braves also benefit in this situation.

Matzek presents intriguing upside when he’s fully healthy for the 2024 season. The Braves felt $1.9 million for a potential lefty late-inning reliever – they know what Matzek can do – was worth the gamble.

Matzek is equipped with a fastball that averaged 96 mph in 2021 (his velocity dipped in 2022, but that might’ve been due to injuries). Matzek’s secondary pitch is his slider, and opponents hit only .131 and .172 against the pitcher over the last two seasons, respectively.

It’s difficult to know how Matzek, now 32, will bounce back from Tommy John surgery. But the operation went well and he hasn’t experienced any setbacks.

Matzek is a fan-favorite in Atlanta. He’s perhaps best known for Game 6 of the 2021 National League Championship Series, when he struck out the side to protect the lead as the Braves closed out the Dodgers at Truist Park. He’s also been a mainstay in the bullpen for a few years.

Since joining the Braves in 2020, Matzek has a 2.92 ERA over 135-2/3 innings. He has 156 strikeouts over those frames. In the 2021 playoffs, Matzek set a franchise record for appearances in a single postseason with 13. His 24 strikeouts are tied for the third most by a reliever in a single postseason.

Off the field, Matzek – whose journey includes conquering the yips – does a lot of work to promote mental health. He’s also open about his battle with anxiety, and is an inspiration for others who may be dealing with similar struggles.

The Rockies drafted Matzek 11th overall in 2009. He debuted in 2014, but never had much success in the majors.

He found himself in independent baseball.

Finally, in 2020, he caught on with the Braves. He has carved out a nice career ever since.

The Braves ensured that Matzek will be with the Braves for at least two more seasons.