OK, so we’ve got the details: The Mets have traded Brian Stokes to the Angels for Gary Matthews Jr. and $21.5 million of the $23.5 million remaining on the two years left on his contract.
So it’s Brian Stokes for the right to have Gary Matthews Jr. on the team at the massively discounted rate of $2 million over two years.
The good news is that Angel Pagan hasn’t gone anywhere, and theoretically he will still have every opportunity to establish himself as the club’s starting center fielder until Carlos Beltran returns from injury. And Pagan should do that, because he’s a much better player, at this point, than Matthews.
The Mets needed someone to back up Pagan, and so they went out and got a player who, in their eyes, has proven he can play center field at the Major League level.
And that’s the issue here: Gary Matthews Jr. has spent the last three seasons proving that he cannot play center field at the Major League level.
Of course the talent evaluators the Mets employ apparently disagree with those imperfect but valuable tools, and here’s hoping they’re right.
Because other than some vague reputation for good defense, Matthews doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. He had a nice year at the plate in 2006 — earning him a giant contract — but has been a bad hitter since, rocking a .708 OPS in his time with the Angels.
You might even say he’s been below replacement level. And the Mets just went out and traded something to get him.
And that’s the issue here.
Not that Stokes was any great shakes. For whatever reason, he was overrated by some Mets fans — this one included — simply because it appeared Jerry Manuel entirely forgot he existed for stretches of the 2009 season. But Stokes was probably lucky to have a sub-4.00 ERA in 2009 with his high 1.564 WHIP, and he never had overly impressive peripheral stats.
Still, as a hard-throwing relief pitcher who posted 108 ERA+ in 103 2/3 innings over two seasons with the Mets, Stokes was something of value. And they just traded something of value for something of arguably no value, since Matthews has done little over the past three years to show that he’s any better than the readily available replacement.
Make no mistake: This is a deal of a seventh reliever for a fifth outfielder. That’s nothing. This means very little in the grand scheme of things.
But it’s frustrating and a little frightening because it shows, once again, how the Mets seem to judge talent in a way that departs so severely from the stats they should now have at their disposal, then overpay to acquire that talent.