More Insanity

Dave · November 22, 2006 at 11:04 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


100 Responses to “More Insanity”

  1. Mr. Egaas on November 22nd, 2006 1:42 pm

    46. It always looks that way, until guys sign extensions in the middle of the season, making the pool smaller and smaller.

    Roy Oswalt was going to be a free agent this year as well, but he got inked before the end of it. That’s the only one off the top of my head, but there were others.

    I’d be interested in seeing a list of FAs at the end of 2007. I know Vernon Wells is on there… he’ll get Beltran/Soriano range money.

  2. rcc on November 22nd, 2006 1:43 pm

    Overpaying for top talent is not a sin, but the latest signings are crazy. As long as the Mariners stay out of this insanity….there is hope….not much, but hope nonetheless.

    You know that Billy Beane will not be participating, and the new kid with the Rangers may be too smart for this nonsense as well. If the Angels want to put themselves in a hole for years to come…..good for them.

  3. Calderon on November 22nd, 2006 2:06 pm

    Stoneman won’t get fired if all the prospects he safeguarded from trades the past few years start producing at the major league level.

    Signing Gary Mathews Jr. was dumb. Last night Rick Rizs and the host of the “Hot Stove League” on KOMO were salivating over the thought of acquiring Mathews.

  4. Thingray on November 22nd, 2006 2:15 pm

    What the hell would we possibly do with Matthews? Ichiro is in CF, and we have plenty of (better) options for the corner spots!

    Rizzs (and whoever the host of that show is) apparently aren’t getting much fresh air where their heads are at.

  5. msb on November 22nd, 2006 2:17 pm

    Rizzs only wants Matthews so he can talk about Sarge.

  6. JI on November 22nd, 2006 3:18 pm

    Its still better than the Pierre deal.

  7. Hooligan on November 22nd, 2006 3:29 pm

    We need the Angels to screw up their free agent signings. They sure aren’t screwing up their draft picks. This kind of insanity gives me hope for our AL West future that our farm system doesn’t.

  8. Evan on November 22nd, 2006 3:40 pm

    But if the Orioles sign Carlos Lee, then you’re basically hoping that the Giants go nuts for Richie without any competitors. And that’s unlikely.

    But not unheard of. That’s how Magglio ended up in Detroit.

  9. Evan on November 22nd, 2006 3:44 pm


    Contract A: 5 years – $50 million

    Contract B: 5 years – $70 million

    Gary Matthews Jr, meet Vladimir Guerrero.

  10. JI on November 22nd, 2006 3:48 pm

    [i]They sure aren’t screwing up their draft picks.[/i]

    Didn’t they just punt them for a middle reliever and a fourth outfielder?

  11. Dr. Milos PHD on November 22nd, 2006 3:49 pm

    56. That’s just lunacy. It is not better than the Pierre deal, and I personally think a lot of people will be snacking on crow before the end of his contract.

    Pierre is on the right side of 30 and is a name. It was only a few years back that this kid was a rising star in the league and was a catalyst for the 2003 WS champions. I know he’s had a few down years and his contract is not great, but he does have a track record that Matthews couldn’t even hold a candle to. Seasons of 200+ hits, 90+ runs and 50+ sb.

    I looked at a few comparison stats for players I thought fit a Pierre mold heading into their 30’s; On a best case scenario he’s Lou Brock and the worst an Otis Nixon. But he probably falls somwhere in between, but players like these generally had very long careers. Others I looked at included Brett Butler, Tim Raines, Kenny Lofton and Vince Coleman. Only Coleman completely burned out after age 30 and the rest contined to slap hits, run around the bases and score runs and isn’t that the objective of the game.

    Pierre is also marketable, I know that there will be at least twice as many Pierre jerseys as Matthews, running around the streets and LA suburbs. I’m not saying it’s a great deal, but I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

  12. Graham on November 22nd, 2006 3:57 pm

    #61: Why look at hits, runs, and SB? Pierre’s skillset is vastly, vastly overrated.

  13. DMZ on November 22nd, 2006 3:57 pm

    You know that Billy Beane will not be participating

    Here’s the thing, though – he’s already lurking around the corners, seeing if Bonds is angry enough with the Giants that he’d take a walk across the bay, poking interesting guys with a stick. If his chance is there, he’ll leap at it.

  14. 2725 on November 22nd, 2006 4:02 pm

    Matthews’ deal is definitely worse than Pierre’s, although the fact that Pierre went to the Dodgers, (the absolute last team in need of another leadoff/slap hitter), makes it seem worse.

    On another front, I’m hearing that Dellucci will end up with the Tribe for around $12 million/3 years. It’s too bad, he would have been a great fit here, and that is a contract that actually makes sense!

  15. JoeM on November 22nd, 2006 4:03 pm

    Good news, the M’s misinformation campign is working…check this quote out from Fox Sports about ‘hidden gems’ of this years free agent pool: “2. Gil Meche, RHS Meche has an impressive arsenal — fastball that touches the mid-90s, tight overhand curve and enough off-speed stuff to get by — and he was finally healthy last season. Meche’s mechanics are inconsistent, but that’s a correctable flaw. With proper instruction, he’ll take a big step forward, and at age 28 he’s primed to do just that. Meche could be the steal of the winter.”

    That cracks me up.


  16. Dr. Milos PHD on November 22nd, 2006 4:24 pm

    64 I agree with Lofton there his skillset does seem a bit overkill.

    62 I mentioned the hits runs and steals cause those are undoubtedly his strengths. No, I don’t know what his vorp, or the +/- value on his average run share for a season. And I don’t really care. The stats I mentioned are tangible. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for sabermetrics in the game, but sometimes things get pushed out of reality. I recognize that Pierre doesn’t walk enough for a lot of you, but he can hit, is a capable fielder and disrubts on the base paths.

    It is not out of the realm of possibility that Pierre’s best season in LA look like this, .380/.400/.320; and that his five year average in LA be something at .350/.370/.300. Of course all the while swiping bases. And I just don’t see what is wrong with that.

  17. idahowriter on November 22nd, 2006 4:30 pm

    #64: Oh, man, if that Dellucci rumor is true, I’m going to be bummed. I was really hoping we’d sign him.

  18. F-Rod on November 22nd, 2006 4:31 pm

    66 Rhat is a tad bit aggresive…I seriously doubt he will average hitting 350 for five years…but he might slightly over 300 for five years, play good D, and run. Not a great player, not a great signing…but not a ruiner for LA…they can afford to overpay a little

  19. bat guano on November 22nd, 2006 4:33 pm

    How about we send Rizzs to Anaheim for a broadcaster to be named later so he can salivate over Lil’ Sarge somewhere else?

  20. 2725 on November 22nd, 2006 4:38 pm

    66: I was more referring to Furcal when i say that the last thing the Dodgers need is more singles hitters with speed. Even more true if Lofton comes back though.

    I think the Dellucci rumor is true but you never know, should be in papers soon…

  21. colm on November 22nd, 2006 4:41 pm

    It’s really tough to hit 350 and slug 300. Howdja figure?

  22. colm on November 22nd, 2006 4:50 pm
  23. msb on November 22nd, 2006 5:01 pm

    well, it sounded like Delucci was willing to swap some money for more playing time — would the Indians give him that?

  24. Graham on November 22nd, 2006 5:04 pm

    #66: Sure, they’re tangible, but what do they actually mean? He can hit? Great. Steals bases? Fantastic. Runs around really quick in centre? Awesome.

    But again, what’s that worth? Pierre gets out. A lot. More than anyone in the game, actually. His middling OBP is supplemented by the fact that although he’s fast, has never really learned to avoid getting thrown out on stolen base attempts. And he gets many, many at-bats.

    His career numbers are .303/.350/.377. That’s an OPS of .727, for those scoring. Let’s be kind to him and factor in the value of his running game, a strength of his, add his stolen bases to total bases and take away from his OBP whenever he got caught. Batting average will of course remain the same.

    SLG calc: (325+1551)/(4110) = .456
    OBP calc: (1244+50+258-116)/(4110+50+258+10+76) = .319!!!

    So adjusted Pierre has a line of .303/.319/.456. Those numbers are about to be supressed by Chavez Ravine, remember, so you can probably drop 0.005 or so off each.

    I’m not sure how you can conclude that Pierre’s going to be that valuable. Over his career, whenever he’s stepped up to the plate, his actions have resulted in an out 68% of the time. 68%!

  25. Jack Howland on November 22nd, 2006 5:06 pm

    I think it should read 300/350/370 and 320/380/400. Both are optimistic projections considering he hit around 285/328/370 over the last two seasons.

  26. shaunmc on November 22nd, 2006 5:14 pm

    I have a question. What’s a good website/database to find out information on current contracts? Length, total, when signed, how much per year (if known), that sort of thing.

  27. Jeff Nye on November 22nd, 2006 5:24 pm

    So what is going on?

    Why are teams spending so crazily this offseason? What’s the impetus? Why are we all able to see that there are some utterly terrible contracts being given out, and yet they’re still being given out?

  28. Deanna on November 22nd, 2006 5:25 pm

    76 – you might want to check out the link in the left sidebar labelled “MLB Contracts”.

  29. eponymous coward on November 22nd, 2006 5:36 pm

    Why are teams spending so crazily this offseason? What’s the impetus?

    They are making a buttload of cash, and are spending it stupidly in a very weak FA market?

    If Matthews is making 5/50, one can only imagine what Carlos Lee, Barry Bonds or JD Drew are going to sign for. Hanging fire and letting everyone go out and be stupid sounds like a WONDERFUL strategy, to see if you can pick up the Kevin Millwoods or other players who didn’t cash in on one year deals late. I sincerely hope this is what Bavasi is doing (even though I worry that it’s not).

  30. 88fingerslukee on November 22nd, 2006 5:40 pm

    #69 – Why don’t we just DFA Rizzs? There is no way I want Rex Hudler or Steve Physioc announcing my games? FUCK THAT!

    #77 – I once traded Tracy McGrady for Joe Smith and Amare Stoudemire (before he was Steve Nash’s favourite plaything). I had no reason for doing this except, 1) I had no idea what I was doing and 2) I was a complete and total basketball idiot at the time.

    So there’s your answer, the people making these deals have any combination of the two above (except, obviously, in relation to baseball, that was just an example).

    Anyway, I’m very glad to be watching other teams make these deals. It’s quite a beautiful thing actually.

  31. Jeff Nye on November 22nd, 2006 5:45 pm

    Right, I understand all of this. And I’m glad (so far) to see the Mariners not signing anyone to these stupid deals.

    But what I’m asking is, what is creating all the impulse to make these big, stupid deals, rather than standing pat in what anyone can see is a very weak free agent market?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m reluctant to blame it all on GMs being bad at doing their jobs.

  32. shaunmc on November 22nd, 2006 5:50 pm

    78 – Heh. That’s easy enough. Thanks, though.

  33. eponymous coward on November 22nd, 2006 5:51 pm

    It is not out of the realm of possibility that Pierre’s best season in LA look like this, .380/.400/.320; and that his five year average in LA be something at .350/.370/.300.

    It’s also not out of the realm of possibility for a meteor strike to hit Juan Pierre in CF while he’s holding a winning MegaMillions ticket. That doesn’t mean it’s likely.

    Juan Pierre’s career batting average is .303. The only guy in recent memory who jumped his batting average something like 50 points over consecutive 5 year periods is Tony Gwynn, who not only did it when the NL added Coors Field AND increased their run scoring a lot in the mid-90’s, but also batted .351 and .370 in his 20’s, two things Juan Pierre has never done.

  34. scraps on November 22nd, 2006 5:55 pm

    (Amare Stoudemire was a 20-point-a-game scorer before Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix.)

    I just wanted to say that shaunmc’s comment 10 cracked me up.

  35. NBarnes on November 22nd, 2006 6:04 pm

    I think 66’s numbers are OBP/SLG/AVG, which I’ve seen elsewhere. It’s the only projection that makes sense (well, more sense, I think there’s basically no chance at all that Pierre will average 300/350/370 over three years in LA).

  36. DMZ on November 22nd, 2006 6:11 pm

    What? Who quotes it OBP/SLG/AVG? AVG/OBP/SLG is like the stathead stylebook ruling.

  37. Mat on November 22nd, 2006 6:22 pm

    What? Who quotes it OBP/SLG/AVG? AVG/OBP/SLG is like the stathead stylebook ruling.

    Sadly, the official MLB pages quote it the wrong way. Here is an example. I imagine that lazy copy and pasters could quote a player’s line this way if they go to mlb’s pages for stats.

  38. DMZ on November 22nd, 2006 6:27 pm

    That’s crazy. Someone needs to come up with the stathead stylebook. Clearly.

  39. shaunmc on November 22nd, 2006 6:36 pm

    Maybe AVG/OBP/SLG is the MLA style, while OBP/SLG/AVG is the Chicago style?

    To be honest, I’m more concerned with how goddamned fast the baseball people can photoshop a new uniform and onto a player’s pre-existing headshot! Do they have one guy whose job it is just to photoshop new hats and unis onto traded players and just-signed free agents? How can I get a job like that?

  40. DMZ on November 22nd, 2006 6:51 pm

    As a huge fan of the Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition) may I just say


    OBP/SLG/AVG is like… (what’s my least favorite style guide…) the Franklin Covey Style Guide: it’s stupid and no one should use it.

  41. shaunmc on November 22nd, 2006 7:35 pm

    Hey man, don’t get mad at me just because the Chicago people don’t know how to order baseball stats. If it’s any consolation, I hear their proprietary defensive metric handles the issue of flyballs very well.

  42. pdb on November 22nd, 2006 8:28 pm

    There’s a Franklin Covey style guide? What, the seven habits of highly effective editors? ugh.

  43. Dr. Milos PHD on November 22nd, 2006 9:28 pm

    Sorry everyone 320/380/400 and 300/350/370. This does make numerical sense, but even my old 86 Topps Canseco RC list avg last.

    But whatever.

    No one wants to talk about a players marketability or the fact that Lou Brock was caught stealing at the same percentage as Pierre (3/1). Nope, it’s all about a+z. Everyone nows baseball is black and white. Either your safe or you’re out.

  44. Dr. Milos PHD on November 22nd, 2006 9:29 pm


  45. mln on November 22nd, 2006 9:43 pm

    Franklin Covey. Isn’t he a free agent this year? What’s his OPS and WARP? I bet he would be good signing this crazy offseason.

    And that Gary Matthews Jr. contract just shows you the evil power of SportsCenter, which has played Matthews’ over-the-fence catch in CF about a bazillion times.

  46. Josh on November 22nd, 2006 9:52 pm

    No one wants to talk about a players marketability or the fact that Lou Brock was caught stealing at the same percentage as Pierre (3/1). Nope, it’s all about a+z. Everyone nows baseball is black and white. Either your safe or you’re out.

    Actually, Lou Brock had a 75.3% success rate compared to a 73.6% rate for Pierre. When you steal that many, a couple percentage points does make a difference.

    You also ought to consider that Pierre still has a few steps to lose, so we’ll see whether he can keep up the 73.6% in the coming years. Perhaps he will if he cuts down on the attempts and looks for the better opportunities instead.

    Also, Brock’s OPS was .753 compared to Pierre’s .727. That’s including the end of his career which was brutal to his OPS, so again, it would be interesting to see where Pierre’s will go in the upcoming years. Brock was also playing in a completely different era, and furthermore didn’t get 2 1/2 years of home games a mile above sea level.

    Regardless, I really don’t see them as too terribly comparable, in spite of the steals.

    Maybe Pierre has some marketability, but I’m not sure that it justifies $45 million when you could get someone a tick below his current and real abilities for $400k a year. Is his marketability really worth ~$8 million annually?

    Just a few thoughts to consider. Most people here really don’t look at things in black and white, in fact, from my angle it seems that’s what they commonly advocate against.

    Just happens that in this case, Pierre’s more of a grey than anything bright.

  47. Zero Gravitas on November 22nd, 2006 10:27 pm

    I think Pierre is pretty similar performance-wise to Chone Figgins, who was already patrolling CF sometimes for the LAAAs, and only makes about 3 mil a year. Pierre probably has a better baserunning ability, but man if I was Chone Figgins I’d be feeling like a sucker right now.

  48. colm on November 22nd, 2006 10:27 pm

    Seriously, how marketable is Juan Pierre? Soriano I’ll give you – former Yankee, high profile career, gaudy counting stats. Alphonso Soriano has a public image that’s out of all proportion to his achievements.

    But Juan Pierre?! I’m a more avid baseball nut than 95% of people out there and I barely know who the guy is.

    But that contract is a steal compared to Matthews Jr.

  49. Josh on November 22nd, 2006 11:47 pm

    I think Pierre is pretty similar performance-wise to Chone Figgins, who was already patrolling CF sometimes for the LAAAs, and only makes about 3 mil a year. Pierre probably has a better baserunning ability, but man if I was Chone Figgins I’d be feeling like a sucker right now.

    Now those two are actually similar.

    Figgins actually has had a little better success rate stealing and has swiped quite a few the last couple of years.

    I’m not sure specifically where either of them would be defensively but they both make me feel near the middle of the pack. Nothing spectacular.

    Figgins walks a little “more” and has a little “more” power. Has a slightly lower BA though. .011 higher OPS.

    Almost a draw, with the difference being apparently $6 million a year. Since he can play a bunch of different positions (well? prolly not) will he be in line for $12 million a year soon?

  50. colm on November 23rd, 2006 10:59 am

    Jeez, how much would a 30 year old Mark MacLemore command in this market?

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