When the Mets traded reliever Brian Stokes in exchange for outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., the move was met with much skepticism.
The original idea was to back up Angel Pagan who would take over in centerfield during Carlos Beltran’s absence, but Omar Minaya said right from the start that Matthews would be in the mix for opening day centerfielder, and a day laster Jerry Manuel added that he’d use Matthews in the leadoff spot.
This morning I took a long look at their spring stats and now I’m wondering if Matthews has already done enough to wrestle the opening day assignment away from Angel Pagan.
Gary Matthews Jr.
.344 BA – .417 OBP – .688 SLG – 32 AB – 11 H – 6 XBH
.212 BA – .278 OBP - .364 SLG – 33 AB – 7 H – 3 XBH
The other day on our site, I couldn’t help but notice a huge debate about spring training stats and their relevance. It seems you have one side that completely disregards spring performance, and then the other side which does believe spring performance is the deciding factor in most competitions for a particular spot or role.
I for one believe spring statistics matter. I believe it was Parnell’s performance last year that won him a job, just as I believe Mejia will do the same this season. And while many believe Murphy has a divine hold on the first base job, I’m not buying it. When you rank 29 out of 30 in slugging among all first baseman, you shouldn’t have a lock on anything.
Going back to the Pagan/Matthews debate, it does appear like Matthews has done more to claim the CF assignment than Pagan has, and when you add in the experience that GMJ brings to the table, how can you dismiss him as a better option?
This morning, Joel Sherman of the New York Post hinted that the Mets are shopping Matthews and that the Reds could be a possibility, echoing what Mike Francesa said not too long ago. Of course this will no doubt unleash a volley of Harang and Arroyo to the Mets blog posts as if the Reds would simply hand over one of their top pitchers for Matthews and another player Mets fans hate and assume would be loved by the Reds.
I don’t believe GMJ will be traded, although trading their best performing outfielder this spring, would be very typical and unsurprising for the Mets. And if he were to be traded to the Reds, I’m sure it will be for the ever so popular PTBNL (player to be named later) which will ultimately be a “B” or “C” level prospect. Great…
As for the very likely event that Matthews sticks around, time will decide if he beats out Pagan, but so far it looks like time is on GMJ’s side.