With Beltran Injured, The Mets Turn To Gary Matthews Jr.

Any excitement the New York Mets and their fans had from the Jason Bay signing was somewhat tempered with the news that star center fielder Carlos Beltran had knee surgery and would miss some time during the regular season.

When the Mets learned Beltran would be out for an extended period of time, they had two options. They could either go with an internal option, such as Angel Pagan or look outside their organization and make a trade or sign a free agent.

Matthews will call Flushing, NY home in 2010

While the Mets still might go with Pagan, they added some insurance yesterday.

As first reported by SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Mets have acquired OF Gary Matthews Jr. from the Los Angels of Anaheim for RHP Brian Stokes. The key to this deal is that the Angels will pay $21.5 of the $23.5 million left on Matthews’ contract.

How bad does a player have to be for a team to eat $21.5 out of the $23.5 million remaining on his contract? Well, Matthews is pretty bad.

Everyone except the Angels knew that giving Matthews a five-year, $50 million contract was a mistake. Matthews had a career year in 2006 and the Angels fell for a time honored tradition in sports where a guy has one great year in his life, it just so happens to be his walk year, and some silly team signs that player to an overbloated contract that he doesn’t deserve.

It took the Angels only one year to realize the error of their ways as they signed Torii Hunter to replace Matthews in 2008. Since the start of the 2008 season, Matthews has been an afterthought for the Angels and quite frankly a terrible player.

Here is a scouting report given by a talent evaluator on Matthews via Buster Olney’s blog:

Matthews is a player to be avoided. Slow bat. Declining range. And above all else, a player who wants to be a regular and will be an unhappy distraction in your clubhouse when he’s not in the lineup every day.

Not the most ringing endorsement. However, despite being a terrible hitter, a terrible fielder, and potential a clubhouse distraction, I don’t think I can fault the Mets for making this move.

What’s the worst thing that can happen when you pay a guy $1 million for a year? Matthews hit .250 with four home runs and .697 OPS last season. As pathetic as that hitting line is, if he does that in a Mets uniform, then he is worth the million.

I wouldn’t worry about Matthews being a clubhouse distraction because this regime in Flushing clearly doesn’t factor in intangibles when assembling a team. The Mets’ clubhouse has distractions throughout.

If Matthews becomes that big of a distraction, then the Mets can just release him. Again, they are only paying him a total of $2 million.

Despite the acquisition of Matthews, I still expect Pagan to start in center field for the Mets. He is not the smartest baserunner in the world, but he has shown potential.

Pagan’s average has increased each year since he arrived in the major leagues in 2006 (.247-.264-.275-.306). He also had a career high .838 OPS in 88 (also a career high) games last season with the Mets.

Defensively, Pagan is much better than Matthews in center. Pagan had a -0.3 UZR in center last year compared to Matthews’ -13.7 UZR, which was one of the worst in baseball.

The Angels in this deal get Brian Stokes, who is nothing more than a fifth or sixth inning reliever. Last year in a career high 70.1 innings, Stokes had a 3.97 ERA with 45 K’s and a 1.56 WHIP.

Again, I know Matthews is virtually useless, but it’s hard to kill a team when they are only paying a guy $1 million a season.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg


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