The Angels appear to have signed Gary Matthews Jr. to a 5 year, $50 million deal. I recognize that this is a new market, that the teams have tons of money, that free agents are getting paid more than they would’ve been last year. But I’m sorry, this is completely ridiculous.
Matthews has had one good season in his career. Of course, that was last year, and it was great, so he positioned himself well for the market. But the dude’s 32, he’d never been much above average before, he put up his good offensive numbers in a major hitter’s park, and he may not be that great of a center fielder. Having GMJ under contract for the next five years ensures that the Angels will have an overpaid corner outfielder even after Garret Anderson’s contract runs out.
Sarge’s career line is .263/.336/.419. According to ZiPS, Maicer Izturis is going to have a better season than that. (I know Izturis doesn’t play center, just…eight figures for utility infielder offense?)
Now for the implications: this would seem to suggest that the Angels won’t be going after Andruw Jones or Manny Ramirez, though trading prospects for Manny would’ve been smarter than doing this. It also might mean that Chone Figgins is expendable, though he’s coming off the worst offensive season of his career, so his trade value might not be much.
Also, we can expect the Dave Roberts sweepstakes to heat up, and perhaps see another team or two get involved with Julio Lugo, who is willing to play center field. Just like the Juan Pierre deal, this would indicate that Roberts will have no trouble getting the $15M/3y he’s after. Lugo ought to have teams giving him the $32M/4y he wants, too. Depending on how he adapts to center, Lugo could be a better player than either Pierre or Sarge, if not in 2007, for the life of their contracts.
One more thing: speaking of center fielders, you may be interested in my Hardball Times column today, which analyzes the difference in defensive skill between CFs and corner guys. I also take a look at how Alfonso Soriano might do in center based on his 2006 performance in left.
By Jeff Sackmann