Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mathis for Mills (aka Why Do the Angels Keep Making Trades with the Blue Jays?)

The last time the two teams made a deal, the Angels ended up with $80 million of Vernon Wells.  Now, they are getting a struggling AAA pitcher.  So why did the Angels make this deal?

In all honesty, this is a great trade for both teams.  Mills never had any chance of cracking the Blue Jays rotation--currently compiled of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Dustin McGowan, and Brett Cecil, with Kyle Drabek, Joel Carreno, Nestor Molina, Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins, and Deck McGuire breathing down their necks (and let's not forget the ever inconsistent, but highly valuable Jesse Litsch).  Plus, due to being in the difficult AL East, Mills's opportunities were only getting slimmer.

In Los Angeles (or Anaheim, if you prefer) Jeff Mathis had become irrelevant.  With newly-acquired Chris Iannetta as the clear starter and Hank Conger coming up behind, there was no need for an extra back-up.  It is highly probable that the Angels would have non-tendered Mathis rather than go to arbitration with him.

So they made the trade.

Now the Jays have a backup catcher to replace the aging Jose Molina--who just signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, which gives his former team a compensation pick in next year's draft--who can help J.P. Arencibia in his sophomore season.  Molina has been on the decline for the past few years, and the former defensive stalwart had began to, well, stall.  Mathis brings a bit more youth to the position as well as a much better glove.  In 698.0 innings last year, the 28 year-old backstop had an astounding .995 fielding percentage behind the plate.  Arencibia would do well to learn from such a professional.  For his defence, Mathis's low offensive numbers can be forgiven.  His acquisition also gives Alex Anthopolous one fewer hole to fill this offseason.

As for Brad Mills, he finally has a chance to make a name for himself.  He may still be a year or two away, but the fears of AL East competition are gone--though in Salt Lake he will still be stuck in the PCL.  The 26 year-old southpaw will likely start next season AAA and will have a chance to prove himself.  Due to the weak back-end of the Angels' rotation, the 26 year-old southpaw may get a chance to show what he has learned in his small amounts of Major League service over the past three seasons.  He provides the Angels with some return for a player who they otherwise may have received nothing for.

Overall, this is a win-win situation.  Both teams have uses for their new acquisition and neither had any for the player traded away.  Mike Scioscia may be a bit heart-broken over the loss of Mathis, but in the end, there are no real losers of this trade.

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