Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Trust Issues (Or, Pagan vs. GMJ)

Posted by JD on January 24, 2010

The most recent Mets transaction saw reliever Brian Stokes traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for outfielder (and former Met) Gary Matthews Jr. The Angels are also throwing in a reported $21.5 million towards Matthews’ $24 million salary over the next two years. That being said, I still think it’s a crappy move.

First off, read this. Sam Miller of the Orange County Register did a great job comparing GMJ to other free agent outfielders* back in October.  If you don’t care for statistical analysis, Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) compiled comments from some scouts and front-office types, the theme of which seemed to be that GMJ has slowed down on the field and turned into a negative presence off it. Nothing I’ve read so far has been positive.

*Read the post, it’s excellent. But here’s a little spoiler: he wasn’t comparing GMJ to Matt Holiday or Jason Bay. Just wait till you see who he did compare him to.

There’s not much more I can add. GMJ is a 34 year-old outfielder who hasn’t posted an average OPS+ since 2006. I wouldn’t have signed him to anything more than a minor league deal, never mind traded a viable asset for him (and I’m beyond pissed that they just gave up Stokes, but that’s a post for another day). This trade smacks of over-reaction.

What I’m really worried about is that this trade will limit Angel Pagan’s playing time. Yes, I hear you saying that Pagan showed a “low baseball IQ” last season, but I feel like his performance at the plate was obscured by the wreckage of the 2009 season. He posted a 121 OPS+ and had 59 Runs Created (which is 9 more than GMJ had last year, in only 27 additional at-bats). Pagan topped GMJ in batting average (.306 to .250), on-base percentage (.350 to .336) and slugging percentage (.487 to .361). For those of you fixated on Pagan’s baserunning issues, the Bill James Handbook shows that Pagan created 12 more runs with his baserunning than the league average. Matthews is not bad either (11 runs better than average), but is no certainly no upgrade in that department.

It’s a trust issue for me, I guess. I can totally see Jerry Manuel wasting at-bats on GMJ because he’s a “veteran” with a “proven track record” and “we just need to get him started” and any other cliche you can come up with to describe leeway given to veteran players. That would be inexcusable, and it gets to the heart of my anger at this trade: why not give Pagan (and Stokes, for that matter) a chance to fail? You’re telling me that the Angels wouldn’t have done this trade in March or April? I find that highly unlikely, just like I find it unlikely that GMJ will add much to the Mets this season.

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2 Responses to “Trust Issues (Or, Pagan vs. GMJ)”

  1. Paul said

    No matter how much you like Angel Pagan, the Mets needed another outfielder. I’m not thrilled it was Gary Matthews Jr., but that’s who we got.

    I’ll miss Brian Stokes, but I don’t really care that he got traded. With all of the relievers on the roster, there’s a pretty good chance he was not going to be on the team anyway.

    You do raise a valid point about Jerry Manuel’s inexplicable reliance on guys with proven track records, even when they aren’t doing the job. But right now, the best I’m hoping for from the 2010 season is a little entertaining baseball and the end of the Manuel/Minaya era.

    • JD said

      Yes, they needed another outfielder. GMJ fits the bill in that sense. But did they need to pay so much for him? Assume Beltran comes back in the 100th game. That means the Mets will have paid $1.25 million and a relief pitcher for 60 games of a platooning outfielder (assuming that we are so lucky: I think we both agree that Manuel could give the lion’s share of innings to GMJ). Is that acceptable? I guess. But is it acceptable to have GMJ again next year? And if not, why waste the $1.25 million next year in cutting him? I’d argue that they’d have been better off signing Reed Johnson for the same amount this year and maintaining their flexibility.

      That all being said, there is a chance that this move won’t matter all that much. That’s what I’ll be rooting for.

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