No this isn’t a déjà vu. For the second straight offseason, Alex Anthopoulos has swung a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Granted this move isn’t as exciting as last year’s Wells for Napoli swap, it gives a fresh start to 2 young players who have had trouble finding success at the big league level.
Coming to Toronto is catcher Jeff Mathis. He was selected in the first round of the 2001 draft and rose quickly through the ranks of the Angels’ farm system. By 2005 Mathis was playing for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. Bengie Molina left the Angels in 2006 leaving a spot open for Mathis to platoon with José Molina. So far in his major league career though, Mathis has failed to perform. He’s a career .194 hitter over 6 full seasons in the majors, only hitting over the Mendoza line in 2 of the 6 campaigns. The end of Mathis’ tenure in Anaheim was foretold on Thursday, when the Angels traded for catcher Chris Iannetta.
Leaving the Blue Jays is perennial let down Brad Mills. Selected twice by the Jays in subsequent amateur drafts, ultimately signed in 2007 after being selected in the 4th round. Mills showed lots of promise in 2008, posting the best record of all pitchers in the minor league organization. He finished the season 13-5 with 159 strikeouts over 147 innings, and an ERA of 1.49 in 27 starts. Mills appeared in 14 games with 9 starts over 3 seasons with the big league Blue Jays and, just like Mathis for the Angels, was not able to translate his minor league success to the top level. Mills has a major league career ERA of 8.57, and was 1-2 in 4 starts with the Jays in 2011.
There’s no question that anyone expects this move to be the one that makes or breaks either team’s season. Mathis was destined to play only 1-2 games per week backing up Iannetta in Anaheim while there was no guarantee Mills would even make it to Toronto’s major league roster in 2012. Unless Anthopoulos has some other plans for Mathis, it seems that he will backup JP Arencibia for a couple starts per week and serve as a late inning defensive replacement. It’s hard to see the logic behind bringing Mathis into the fold, in an organization that has catching prospects Travis D’Arnaud and Brian Jeroloman I have to question whether a career .194 hitter is a better option than a sophomore/rookie platoon.
The offseason is only warming up for the Blue Jays. As Anthopoulos prepares to enter the winter meetings Monday in Dallas there is still a glaring hole at 2B, too many major league ready outfielders, and a need for a bonafide closer. Big names in the bullpen have gone to Philadelphia and Miami in the forms of Jonathan Pappelbon and Heath Bell this offseason, and rumour has it that the Jays have their eyes on Oakland A’s closer Andrew Bailey. Anthopoulos has made no secret that he prefers to plug holes through trades rather than the free agent market, and the A’s have announced that just about everyone on the roster is on the trading block. With up to 6 other teams interested in acquiring Bailey, the Jays’ chances are limited, however there is no questioning Toronto’s organizational depth that could give them the edge in trade talks. If nothing else, the winter meetings next week in Dallas should be very interesting for Blue Jays fans as they seem to always be.