Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Aside on the Gary Matthews Jr. Situation

Readers, thank you for the interesting feedback on my last article about the Mets recent roster moves. As expected, not everyone was as happy as I was about the improvement they have shown recently. Most of the haterade directed toward the front office is that they acquired and continue to play Gary Matthews Jr. Some comments:
--the presence and use of Matthews (who must certainly be the worst offensive player in MLB, and is still aboard because the Wilpons won't eat the $2 mil--making his acquisition a net disaster, BTW

--according to that article, the gmJoke move was a good one to begin with

--it was the fact that Omar had been targetting GMjr all off-season for reasons unknown to absolutely anyone, despite everything in his recent history saying he was a player with little to no upside.

Alright, alright, I get it. We don't like Gary Matthews Jr. I don't like him either!! He's not very good. He can't hit, and he's not the defensive player he used to be. But let's look at the facts here!

From 2002-2007, Matthews hit .271/.339/.435 for an OPS+ of 101.

From 2002-2005, he was a FAR above average defefnsive centerfielder. In 2006, he was about average.

But there is no denying that he wasn't the same player from 2008 and 2009, his age 33 and 34 seasons. He didn't hit well. His fielding stats were putrid. For those two seasons, he had a total OPS+ of 80 and slugged less than .360. According to fangraphs, he was worth -$8 million over the last two years.

Those are the facts. He was a valid starter for his peak years, and was bad to terrible over the last two. But is the hand-wringing really worth it in this case? I say no. Here's why:

A) We gave up nothing of value to acquire Gary Matthews Jr.
B) He provided a known quanity as a back-up to Angel Pagan. He was bad, but we had an idea of how bad he'd be.
C) He actually has been good defensively this year. According to fangraphs, he's posted a +0.4 UZR in centerfield. It's a small sample size, but he's been good.
D) We pay him almost nothing - barely more than the minimum.
E) He barely plays.

The last point is by far the most important one. He had only 36 plate appearances in April. He's has only 25 plate appearances in May. He's on pace to have only around 150 at-bats this year, even if Beltran never comes back.

Last year, the Mets amassed 5,438 at-bats as a team. If the current paces hold, that is around 2% of the total at-bats the Mets will have. If he had 150 at-bats last year, he would have ranked right between Cory Sullivan and Jeremy Reed in terms of significance.

Could the Mets have gone a different direction? Maybe. Could they have signed Eric Byrnes (batting .090), Rick Ankiel (695 OPS), Cory Sullivan (479 OPS) or Reed Johnson (729 OPS)? Maybe. Who knows if any of them would have accepted a back-up role, or been available for $1 million or less. And, as noted above, would any of them have provided any kind of upgrade?

With Gary Matthews Jr., people need to just see it for what it is. He's not a very good player any more, but we got him for cheap and he barely plays. When the Mets have a better option, if their smart moves this year are any indication, Gary Matthews Jr. will be gone.


Bryan H. said...

See I have a problem with Part E of what you've said.

I don't like the idea of having a guy on the bench who we don't ever want in the game. He is not a good defensive replacement (despite the small sample size this year, he has been subpar over the last 3 years) and hes a horrid pinch-hitter. So we basically have a guy they is taking away a roster spot from someone who may actually be in some way productive.

While I'm very hopeful he'll be gone whenever Beltran gets back, it's unfortunate that the mets are even in this spot.

Brian Mangan said...

I would agree with you completely IF we had anyone to replace him with.

We don't.

Of the guys in Triple-A who are listed as centerfielders, there is Jason Pridie (282/331/387) who stinks and is injured, and Emmanuel Garcia (208/208/208).

Jesus Feliciano is the only hitter, but he's listed as a left fielder. Can he play center? I don't know.

Do you want to dip into Double-A for Kirk Nieuwenheis (299/335/481) just to stick him on the bench anyway?

Guys who can competently play center field do not grow on trees. Even less of them can hit. And when all is said and done, GMJ is probably the second best center fielder in the organization while Beltran is out.