I noted this in Derek’s news wrapup, but this deserves its own post.
The Angels have signed Gary Matthews Jr to a 5 year, $50 million contract.
5 years, $50 million for Gary Matthews Jr. This guy.
Let’s take a look at his career, shall we?
In 1993, Matthews was drafted in the 13th round by the San Diego Padres after attending Mission College for one year. He was signed and sent to the Northwest League as a 20-year-old. He barely hit his weight, putting up a lousy .209/.286/.251 line.
He then spent the next three years in Class-A ball, posting mediocre performances and finally earning a promotion to Double-A at age 23. He didn’t hit in Double-A that year, either.
At age 24, repeating Double-A, he put together a decent half season but battled injuries. The performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A in 1999, where he was assigned to the Coors Field of the PCL, Las Vegas. He didn’t hit there, either.
He was then traded to the Cubs for the immortal Rodney Myers in 2000. They watched him not hit in Triple-A at age 26, and let him go on waivers. The Pirates grabbed him in 2001, watched him not hit for them at the major league level, and then sold his contract to the Mets for peanuts. A few months later, the Mets traded him to the Orioles for the John Bale, who is probably hanging out with Rodney Myers today. Matthews actually had a decent season with the Orioles in 2002 at the age of 28, putting up 344 useful at-bats as a solid fourth outfielder.
The Orioles, however, valued those at-bats so much they put him back on waivers, where the Padres claimed him in 2003. He had a slightly worse year, but was still marginally useful, so when the Padres put him on waivers at the end of the year, the Braves put in a claim.
However, he failed to make the Braves in spring training of 2004 and was released. The Rangers signed him to a minor league deal six days later. He went to Texas and resumed his career as a semi-useful fourth outfielder. He was pushed into everyday status in 2005 and was his usual self, hitting .255/.320/.436. After finishing his age 30 season, he looked like he was leaving the prime of his career, which had culminated in him being a decent reserve or a poor starter for a non-contending club.
Then, 2006 rolls around, and at age 31, he has a career year, hitting .313/.371/.495 as an everyday center fielder. However, there wasn’t a significant change in his skillset – his walk rate declined slightly, his power was exactly where it was the previous two seasons, he didn’t hit any more line drives, and his HR rate actually fell. The improvement was completely and utterly tied to his ability to have balls fall into gaps where fielders weren’t standing.
The Angels apparently think that’s a repeatable skill, and are now going to pay Matthews Jr $10 million a season for his age 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36 seasons. They could have claimed him on waivers any one of four times during the past five years, or traded a non-prospect for him, or signed him to a minor league contract when he was released by the Braves.
But no, they didn’t think enough of him then to take him when he was free. A six month stretch where a few extra balls find a hole here or there and a diving catch that ends up on Sportscenter, and now, he’s a $50 million player.
That’s absurd. You can talk about inflation and wanting to win all you want, but Gary Matthews Jr is a completely replaceable role player who is going to be taking a large step back in performance during the next few years.
The Soriano contract was ill conceived, but at least the Cubs got a good player. The Pierre contract was ridiculous, but at least the Dodgers got someone who can legitimately play center field for the next few years and has a skillset that is traditionally valuable among major league GMs.
But Gary Matthews Jr got $50 million for no reason that I can comprehend. What a horrible, horrible contract. We’re going to see more wasted money this offseason than any other offseason in history. Denny Neagle and Chan Ho Park are going to look like relative bargains by the time the decision makers are done blowing a half billion this winter.