Today’s trade of Brad Mills to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for back-up catcher Jeff Mathis comes down to one simple question: does Mathis hold greater value than any of the position’s available free agents?
There is little question that Mathis is a solid addition and immediately becomes one of the most reliable and defensively consistent back-ups in the league. The arbitration-eligible 28-year old (Mathis made $1.7 million last season and would likely be in line for a slight raise going into 2012) has spent his five major league seasons playing under former catcher Mike Scioscia and been commended for his handling of young pitchers during that time.
However, the same things could be said of several of the plethora of free agent catchers currently on the market. And, at least in the eyes of this very amateur scout, it’s not easy to distinguish Mathis from, say, a Kelly Shoppach or Chris Snyder.
So why was Alex Anthopoulos, he of the asset-collecting mindset, willing to give up – gasp! – a young, controllable lefty to secure J.P. Arencibia’s understudy?
Anthopoulos’ decision to make the move speaks volumes of his feelings on both of the involved parties.
The 26-year old Mills had produced little (8.57 ERA, 1.821 WHIP) in parts of three seasons at the big league level and was getting bypassed on the prospect depth chart by younger hurlers. Mathis, meanwhile, comes highly regarded from LA and could be a tremendous asset in mentoring both Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud.
The early reaction (in Toronto, anyway) to the deal has lauded the acquisition of the light-hitting-but-defensively-sound Mathis. But it will be interesting to do a cost-benefit analysis at season’s end to see a) whether the Jays would have likely been any worse off with a Shoppach or Snyder (who wouldn’t have cost the club anything more than money), and b) if the Angels can find a role in which Mills can thrive.
Mathis’ acquisition will also likely cost the Jays Brian Jeroloman (big loss, I know), as the team will need to make room on the 40-man roster and Jeroloman is the logical choice to be waived.
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Written by Ben Fisher