It took a while, but Gary Matthews Jr. finally got his wish.
The five-year, $50 million pact was agreed upon prior to the 2007 campaign.
At the time, Matthews was coming off a career year in which he’d set career highs across the board, posting an impressive .313/.371/.495 batting line to go with 102 runs scored, 19 home runs, 79 RBI, and 44 doubles for the Rangers.
To boot, Matthews gained an inaccurate reputation as premier defensive center fielder, based largely on the merits of one spectacular catch .
When Matthews’ 2006 success didn’t carry over with the Angels, he quickly lost playing time.
The Angels signed a legitimate defensive center fielder—and a superior hitter—in Torii Hunter prior to the 2008 season and Matthews was relegated to a fourth outfielder role, and by mid-2009 had become the club’s fifth option.
As such, Matthews began lobbying for a trade out of Los Angeles.
Matthews reportedly asked for a trade in Spring Training of 2009, at the all-star break, and again at season’s end.
Shocking as it may seem, teams weren’t exactly lining up to acquire a mediocre defensive outfielder with a career battling line of .258/.333/.408 and one of the worst contracts of all-time.
As one might expect, that left only two options for Matthews, shut up and cash paychecks as a bench player in Los Angeles, or play for the New York Mets.
The Mets are clearly concerned that Carlos Beltran, the club’s star center fielder, won’t be ready to play as soon as expected.
Beltran underwent knee surgery last week and is expected to miss at least 12 weeks recovering, thus ensuring he won’t be available early in the season.
The move appears to be a knee-jerk reaction by the Mets who possess internal options in Angel Pagan and Fernando Martinez.
Additionally, if the club is that worried, it would be better off signing someone like Johnny Damon who can still hit the ball and can play mediocre defense just as well as Matthews can.
Matthews, who will receive $11 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011, is in his second-stint with New York. He appeared in two games, earning one at-bat, back in 2002.
Matthews figures to play a much larger role this time around as he’ll likely be penciled in as the club’s starting center fielder in Beltran’s absence.
If/when Beltran returns to the lineup, it will be interesting to see how vocal Matthews is about playing time now that he’s been given a second—albeit undeserved—shot as a big league center fielder.
UPDATE: According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, the Angels will receive big league reliever Brian Stokes in the deal and will pay $21 million of the remaining $23 million on the contract in addition to a $500,000 bonus that Matthews receives for being traded.
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