Braves left-handed reliever Tyler Matzek, a key bullpen piece in Atlanta's World Series run last fall, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday and miss the rest of the playoffs. Because Tommy John surgery requires at least 12 months of rehab and recovery, it's possible that he will also miss the entirety of the 2023 campaign.
Matzek, 31 years old, has been one of the best stories in baseball dating back to 2020. Originally the 11th pick in the 2009 draft, he had washed out of organized ball after a few unsuccessful attempts at latching on with the Colorado Rockies' big-league club. He was pitching for the Texas AirHogs, an independent league team, in 2019 when he was spotted by Braves assistant general manager Dana Brown, according to the tale that's made its way around league circles. Matzek impressed Brown enough to receive a contract, and he's since made the most of his second chance in the majors.
Indeed, Matzek has appeared in 132 games for the Braves, compiling a 2.92 ERA (149 ERA+) and a 2.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 135 innings. Last October, he appeared in 13 games, holding opponents to three runs on 10 hits and four walks in 15 ⅔ innings. He struck out 24 of the 60 batters he faced and ended the playoffs with a 1.72 ERA. Matzek appeared in all four of the Braves' World Series victories.
Matzek will be arbitration-eligible for a second time this offseason. He received a $1.4 million salary for the 2022 season, and Matt Swartz's model at MLB Trade Rumors projects that he'll earn a raise up to $1.8 million this winter. It's theoretically possible that the Braves could non-tender Matzek, but they've shown patience in the past with recovering relievers and he would seem worth holding onto.