Mets Trade Brian Stokes for Gary Matthews, Jr.

It appears to be a done deal: Jon Heyman has reported on that the Mets have sent Brian Stokes to the Angels for outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr.

The Mets will be responsible for paying only $2M of the remaining $23M+ left on Little Sarge’s contract.

And this makes sense how?

I know, I know … a few days ago I pointed out the Mets were desperate for a backup outfielder with the ability to play centerfield. But why pay $2M and give up a healthy arm for an aging outfielder with declining skills when you could have easily re-signed either Cory Sullivan or Jeremy Reed to a minor league deal worth less than $1M?

The logic, I suppose, is that Matthews could possibly return to the form that posted 19 HR, .313 AVG, and Gold Glove-like fielding in 2006. Unfortunately, Rudy Jaramillo is not the Mets’ batting coach, the Mets are not moving to the Ballpark at Arlington, and PEDs are still banned in MLB.

Matthews is 35 years old, turning 36 in August. His skills declined so quickly after signing with the Angels that they put his $55M contract on the bench. That didn’t set well with him, and he was so unhappy with the situation, and so affected the Angels clubhouse, that the Angels were willing to eat $22M to make him go away.

Remember now, the Angels were perennial postseason participants. Do you think Matthews is going to be thrilled to be riding the bench for the struggling Mets?

Further, the Mets now have to commit another spot on the 25-man roster to an aging, injury-prone veteran with a guaranteed contract. This small detail is a big deal when a team carries 12 pitchers, and thus has room for only 4 non-catching bench players. Half of those precious spots are now cemented with Matthews and Alex Cora. Not a flexible situation, is it?

Yes, if things don’t work out with Matthews they could simply release him. Another $2M down the drain. Not much on its own, but a few million here, a few million there, eventually adds up.

Maybe I’m overreacting. Perhaps Little Sarge will magically rediscover the athleticism of his (enhanced) youth, transform into an unselfish, team-first ballplayer, and lead the Mets to the playoffs with an All-Star season.

Anything is possible, after all.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Eric_Valent_Hit_For_The_Cycle January 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm
    With so many questions marks in our pitching staff and in the bullpen getting rid of a solid strong armed young bullpen arm in Stokes is a bad move. Stokes never gets hurt or hardly ever got tired and you always knew he would give you solid innings. We could have signed any FO backup outfielder and it wouldnt have mattered. This deal benefits the Angels. They get rid of a player they had to play anyway and they get a pitcher in return, something they could use. Sending them Castillo would have been the optimum thing to do. You never trade pitching for a bench player.
  2. Eric_Valent_Hit_For_The_Cycle January 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm
    I meant PAY anyway.
  3. Timo January 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm
    i don’t see this as a bad deal, it’s not a blockbuster but not bad. I never thought Stokes was that great and Gary Jr isn’t horrible. We now have a reliable defensive centerfielder to start the season. Now Beltran can take as much time in the beginning of the season to get healthy so we can trade him for prospects. i’m not a fan of Angel Pagan either. Maybe the competition would be good for both Gary Jr & Angel. They may play better to be the starter. It’s not the worst way the Met’s could have spent their money. I’m also glad they aren’t getting Bengi or Pinero. Money well saved there.
  4. Fla-Mets-Man January 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm
    great deal if the mets can flip the purchase of his small anuall contract (that the Mets are responsible for) and package him with castillo… ship them off to a smaller-to-mid-market club looking for some “name recognigion players” (pitt? nats? any dumpy A.L team) for some mid level prospects or MLB ready toss-up arms.

    Would open up 2nd base, dump salary and allow the Mutts to add Ben Sheets as a S.P. and find a 2b with some defensive skills. Basically trading Castillo’s contract for a high reward S.P. plus prospects… leaving the team open to sign a 2b. Pagan starts C.F. in Beltrans stead. If this is the plan… cheers!

  5. gary s. January 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm
    fla met man, not a bad idea..but omar is not that smart..more than likely we blew 4 mill on 2 players (cora & matthews) with no upside..we could have used this money towards sheets, who is a gamble, but at least in theory has an upside
  6. DC NINER January 22, 2010 at 6:55 pm
    gary s: You think Omar is stupid because he doesn’t waste his time packaging Castillo and Mattehws. Actually, he’s smart for not wasting his time on a frutless effort. Its you who are stupid and arrogant for thinking that the METS because they are your team, can pawn any piece of crap off on smaller market teams. Its attitude’s like yours that make the entire baseball world hate the Mets more than even the Yankees. At least the Yankees have rings to back up their arrogance. You’re arrogant losers. Enjoy your FIFTH PLACE finish this year. Nobody will be more deserving of this then you arrogant Met fans.
  7. isuzudude January 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm
    DC NINER: clearly you’re the idiot here. Suggesting the Mets package Castillo and Matthews together in a trade is dumb, I agree, but calling Met fans “arrogant losers” is extremely contradictive because we, ourselves, admit the Mets suck, they have no direction or leadership, and are a hair away from being overtaken in the standings by the Nationals. What type of arrogant fan declares his own team a hapless joke of a baseball franchise? Get a clue.

    Anyway, I’m not a fan of the trade, regardless of how much money the Angels are picking up on Matthews’ contract. He’s old, he’s brittle, he’s cantakerous, he’s in serious decline, and he cost a semi-valuable peice of the bullpen to acquire. Essentially, he’s a more expensive and a lesser talented version of Gary Sheffield circa 2009. Randy Winn, Reed Johnson, Ryan Freel, Gabe Gross, Rocco Baldelli, Eric Byrnes, and countless others are still available for the taking for relatively cheap and are all pretty good bets to produce at least as much as Matthews in 2010 or better, all without costing Brian Stokes to acquire.

    Timo: I’m not sure how you can say Matthews “isn’t horrible,” and then say you aren’t a fan of Angel Pagan. Pagan hit .300+ with double digit triples, and showed enough flashes of power, speed, and defense to make you think he can suffice as a temporary replacement for Beltran in CF. Meantime, Matthews’ power has evaporated, his speed has dissappeared, and his defense has gone right down the tubes. What’s to like? There really is no comparison, and the fact that the Mets are even considering having Matthews compete with Pagan for the CF job shows how clueless they are about evaluating talent and putting the best product on the field.

  8. Eric_Valent_Hit_For_The_Cycle January 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm
    We agree again Izuzudude. This move is pointless. Maybe the Angels called Omar and convinced him. Omar said hey what the heck I had to get an outfielder anyway. So he pulled the trigger on the deal. He saw it as getting a high priced player for cheap while helping the Angels.
    I see it as giving up a solid pitcher for a previous steriod user with a bad attitude. More like a poor man’s Milton Brandley except Matthews is one rich
    I know Stokes was out of options if sent down to AAA so we got something for him it would seem. But, if Stokes was so expendable why not give him a chance to compete again and if he doesn’t prove himself then you option him to AAA and let someone pick him up. This deal has the Mets spending more money than they should have. Jim Edmonds prolly has just as much value as Gary Matthews Jr and is willing to except league minimum. This move to is a slight loss because pitching depth is what is going to win us games. We now have 2 spots to fill in the bullpen.
    Heck I would have took Endy Chavez over Gary Matthews Jr. Chavez would have been welcomed with open arms by Mets fans and prolly would have gotten a standing ovation this year. He would have brought the good times feeling back to the club and is a great club house presence.
  9. gary s. January 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm
    dc miner.. if u want to talk about arrogant baseball fans, go find a yankee blog to rant a met fan for many years, i’ve gone thru a lot of emotions.arrogance is certainly not one of them.winning breeds arrogance,in case u haven’t noticed, the mets don’t win that often.maybe u meant to say frustrated.or maybe you are the one who suffers from stupidity.
  10. joejanish January 23, 2010 at 12:54 am
    EricVHFTC – your “handle” just reminded me that Eric Valent is only 32 years old, can probably still handle CF adequately, would probably perform at a level similar to Matthews offensively, and would likely accept the MLB minimum salary.

    Maybe we should start a movement: bring back Eric Valent!

  11. CatchDog January 23, 2010 at 8:59 am
    I recently posted that I believed Stokes was a viable trade candidate. And although I liked Stokes velocity (95mph), he sorely needed a secondary pitch. Plus, his splits were dismal. Last season against lefties, Stokes had a 2.27 WHIP, with opposing batters hitting .330. One thing the Mets don’t need is another ROOGY. Not to mention, Stokes career WHIP is 1.62 with opposing batters hitting .302. Not good.

    In addition, this spring the Mets will have a minimum of 14 righties competing for 5 spots in the pen. The players include; Frankie, Parnell, Escobar, Igarashi, Green, Figgy, RA Dickey, Stoner, Nieve, Kunz, Egbert, Everts, Dillon Gee & Elmer Dessens. There is even rumor of John Smoltz joing the party. Add to the fact that Stokes seemed to be the forgotton man in the pen last couple of seasons and it makes sense that he’s a goner.

    As for Matthews, with the subtraction of Stokes salary, the Mets are on the hook for 1 mil per season. Perhaps a change of scenario will benefit him. And word is that Gary’s in great shape this winter. That said; having a switch hitting veteran, who can play all three outfield positions, compete with Pagan and possibly Frenchy for a starting spot is not the worse thing in the world. And when Tron returns, the Mets could simply DFA him, send him to Buffalo or as mentioned in a previous post, package him in a trade.

    Lastly; this move should also insure that FMart begins the year in Buffalo. The kid needs a full healthy season away from the lights of NYC.

  12. mic January 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm
    Where did this love fest for Pagan come from Joe?

    First you might want to do a quick deja vu on your OWN writings on Pagan (he of the 2cent head). I for one belive the CF spot is a 3-way battle and Fmart COULD win. Pagan’s value is as a leadoff hitter and b/u CF. MY view is he has greater value as trade bait. I think pagan and others are in a trade bundle, but Omar needed Sarge as cover to then trade Pagan.

    Note to Joe:

    Omar comment (RE the trade) was the competition is open……hmm

    Also: Mets made some offers that did not go through…..other players wanted have been injured….

    To me that reads as Omar is looking at trades for healthy bodies first.

    On sarge: russ Branyan just had a huge comeback year. sarge very well could do the same. At worst he still wont resemble Murhy in the outfield.

    As for Stokes; I lobbied for him, and I was wrong. He could NEVER pitch out of a big spot, nor fill the longman role. His FB was too straight and his offspeed stuff fooled no one. I’d tryout Brad Holt.

  13. joejanish January 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm
    Mic – where in this article or the comments do I admit my love for Angel Pagan? Maybe you are confusing me with someone else?

    Yes, saw that “open competition” bs. I may not have a “lovefest” for Pagan, but he is currently the Mets’ best candidate for CF. F-Mart is not an option — not in any way, shape, or form.

    Um, as for injured players, Matthews has been injury-prone his entire career, most recently suffering back problems. He wasn’t on the field often enough to hurt himself any worse in 2009.

    I don’t get the Branyan comparison. It’s apples and oranges. Branyan is three years younger and was last an everyday player in 2002. He did in 2009 as a regular pretty much what he’s done his whole career as a backup — strike out a lot, hit a bunch of homers, fight nagging injuries. It wasn’t a surprise he hit 31 dingers last year so much as it was surprising he stayed off the DL enough to do so.

    In contrast, Matthews was once an athletic and skilled OF who wasn’t much of a hitter — until he found the magical combination of PEDs, Arlington, and Jaramillo. Now he’s a poor hitter who has lost his athleticism and fielding ability.

    36-year-olds don’t recover their athleticism without some “help”, if you know what I mean.