Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gary Matthews: Not a Good First Step

The Merc today announced Matthews as a top priority for the Giants and could be a Bochy influenced interest since he has played twice for Bochy, once as rookie and once just before joining the Rangers and finally doing well. He would play CF and push Winn to a corner OF spot (RF if Bonds return, LF perhaps if not and Linden in RF).

Da Data on Da Playa

I took the liberty to strip out his home numbers - Rangers home is homer haven normally - particularly for left-handed hitters and he's a switch-hitter. Hmmm, oddly enough, his batting line is pretty much the same, home or road, while with the Rangers, though HR-rate much better at home, they landed for more doubles on the road, resulting in SLG about the same, either way:

Home: .280/.352/.464/.816; 25 AB/HR
Road: .289/.349/.471/.820; 34 AB/HR

That's approximately the difference between a 20 HR season and a 25 HR season.

He'll be 32 years old for next season, so assuming this would be a 3 years contract of some sort (either 2+option or 3), this would cover his 32, 33, 34 years. Which, of course, are the years most players are prone to diving to their retirement.

Not a New Direction: Back to the Future Redux

My most immediate impression (smell, really) right now of Gary Matthews is of a Michael Tucker-lite redux with a dash of Randy Winn. Player who has enough talent to start playing significant time at age 25, but never good enough to win a starting position, though Gary basically did last season, playing 147 games with 620 AB and 678 PA. About average in OBP, not that great with the power but OK, will get you around 15-20 HR annually, plus good defense, can play all OF positions, but, while speedy, is pretty bad stealing bases. And now, at age 31, had his career year and probably wants a big contract and a starting position.

I can see the Sabean spin on him now: he is much younger (32 vs. Moises 40), good hitter with some pop and speed, great defense in CF, leadoff hitter, veteran leadership.

See the Fit, But I won't Acquit

From a personnel standpoint, I can see the fit, particularly if we get Bonds back. Bonds in LF, Matthews in CF, Winn in RF, with Linden as the 4th OF, sucking up starts in LF (when Bonds rest, 40-60 games) and RF (when Matthews or Winn rest, 30-60 games) plus starter when the inevitable injury comes along (don't know Matthews history, if games missed were due to being a bench player or being injured frequently; I presume the former).

But after hitting .313/.371/.495/.866 with 19 HR and 102 runs and 79 RBI, he is not going to be looking for a Michael Tucker-ish 2 year/$3-4M contract, he's going to want 3-4 years at $5-7M per season, and that I would have a problem with, no way we pay him for one great season, that's another Adrian Beltre-type of insanity signing, or actually closer to a Robby Thompson-ish, particularly with him being 32 for next season and headed for the decline most players experience in that age range, after a career year at a late point in the career.

I like the son of a Giant angle, but only at the right price and I think he's going to be asking for too much. I would rather pass on him, but he is the proto-typical Sabean player acquisition of the past few years, someone with good but not great stats, got some issues, particularly age, and there's not really much going on that really encourages the fan to think we can win with him.

If this is the caliber of players Bochy's influence is bringing in, all I can say is "Ugh" and "Ewww".
But I will still give the new "team" a chance to wow me, by evaluating the whole roster once they are done, but starting off with Matthews would be starting the honeymoon off with a big downer, it would be like the new wife coming into the honeymoon bedroom wearing a long flannel plaid gown and green moisturizing cream all over her face.

9 comments:

  1. Martin, I guess it all comes down to a gamble. Signing Matthews would be betting that he is a late bloomer much like Ibanez bloomed late in KC after first failing in Seattle and then returned to Seattle to continue his sucess. I think this is a good bet if the price is right. I do not think Matthews will command a Winn like contract but he will command at least 2 years with a third year option at $5-6M per year. If I am right on the ammount of the bet this is a bet I think the Giants should place.

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  2. I guess I just think that the odds are low that he is a late bloomer, as Ibanez was an exception, was he not?

    But a contract in the $8-10M range for 2 years for Matthews plus that option you noted would be OK with me, it's not breaking the bank, and would be much more reasonable than committing double the years plus more bucks to him.

    Cause I'm OK with Matthews as a player - I'm probably OK with any and all the suspects and rejects who have been mentioned as potential free agency signings - my main problem is if we are over paying for any of these guys and Matthews look like he will be wanting star type of money for his 2006 season, much like Beltre wanted that type of money for his one good year - lucky how he happen to have his best year ever that year, as his two years with Seattle are amazingly similar to his years before that great season, from 1999 to 2003, 5 seasons of consistent mediocrity, his one great year of superiority, then back to the same old, same old.

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  3. Martin, I assume Bonds is back, meaning, with Winn signed, we need one OFer. I am not at all against getting Matthews, for just about Winn money (but, hopefully, not for 4 years). Then, as you observed, we have a starting outfield of Bonds, Matthews, and Winn, with Linden as the 4th OF, getting 350-450 ABs and a chance to earn a starting spot. If he does, then you still have an OF in '08: Bonds leaves, and Winn, Matthews, and Linden are the starters. Very good plan, I think, giving protection for '07 for a potential failure by Linden, but still having a credible OF. And if he succeeds, he moves seamlessly into the starting OF for '08.
    If it is not Matthews, some veteran FA will play this role, I think, and Linden will also play the role I have described, thereby avoiding the "Niekro" phenomenon - and the resultant scramble in July to find a productive replacement.

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  4. I don't think Matthews has as much leverage as Beltre had a couple of years ago. Matthews is a lot older than Beltre was (isn't he?), and his best year is still nothing like the consistency that Beltre showed for at least a couple of seasons before becoming a free agent.

    Now, he's not asking for Beltre-esq money, but I don't even think he has much grounds to ask for Winn money. As has been said, I'll go with 2 years at 4-5 million per, but anything much more than that (especially years) is just too big of a gamble.

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  5. Good point about not having as much leverage. I was more using Beltre as an example of how a team paid for his peak year and got back the player he was before. That is what I fear about Matthews, paying him for 2006 and getting the Matthews of previous years.

    If anything, Matthews has actually performed at a more even keel over the past 3 years than Beltre did before turning free agent (Matthews OPS for the 3 is actually HIGHER than Beltre's for his career, taking out his peak free agent year). But then there's the age thing as you mentioned.

    OK, there is grounds for asking and then there is a free agent wanting what he wants. Aurilia had no grounds for asking the Giants for a 4 year at $8M per season contract, but he did. I won't pretend to know Matthews specifically, but I have seen more than one free agent get a salary/contract that reflects what he did the season before and not what he did over the past, say, 3 seasons. There's always that sucker MLB team who will buy into the story that this is the new and improved player we saw last year and not the same old player we saw the years before that, like Ponson, Weaver, etc.

    What you suggest is reasonable and I would be OK with that - 2 years at $4-5M per - but I suspect he will probably want 3+ years at $6+M per (want and get are two different things; hopefully Giants will be turned off if they hear the latter figures).

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  6. 6 million per year is similar to the contracts Steve Finley was getting during his previous seasons (before becoming an Angel/Giant). Its actually a tad bit more, but we'll factor in inflation (I suppose).

    Matthews' performance is no where near what Finley's was in his pre-Angels/Giants form. So if Sabean (or any other GM for that matter) thinks reallllly hard, he'll convince himself that Matthews really isn't worth that contract. Especially after one flash-in-the-pan year coming after the age of 30.

    Perhaps 2 years and an option (performance/team/mutual), and I may still take the deal, so more as it still doesn't average out to more than 4-5 million a year.

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  7. But you haven't factored in the incredible lack of talent in this FA market. Doesn't that drive up the price by25 to 50%???

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  8. From your mouth to their ears, hopefully they will hear that. But it didn't work in Beltre's case, somebody bit, there's no way he was worth $13M per year for 5 years looking at his stats prior to his "breakout" year:

    3 years: .254/.298/.421/.718, 28 AB/HR
    5 years: .265/.321/.432/.753, 29 AB/HR

    Here's Feliz's stats, career and 3 years:

    career: .252/.288/.436/.724, 26 AB/HR
    3 years: .256/.295/.443/.738, 26 AB/HR

    See how close their 3 years before free agency are? I assume you don't think that Feliz is going to get a 5 year, $15M per year contract, but that is what Beltre got for his one year of great hitting before returning to his career average.

    So there will the suckers who bite on the story. True, he was also much younger, but all you need is one sucker.

    Hopefully Sabean isn't that sucker, but he did sign Alfonzo and gave him that extra year over everyone else, when it was unclear if Alfonzo was going down due to injury or due to age decline. Clearly it was the latter, now, after the fact.

    And if that outlier for Beltre doesn't scream performance enhancement drug usage by Beltre that one season, I don't know what wouldn't. It is one thing to have the one outlier year, but to do it the year you go free agent, that stretches the fabric of truth and reality.

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  9. Yes, lack of quality does end up driving up prices. That's when it is most important to not overpay for mediocrity.

    If the Giants exercise fiduciary constraint and not overpay for mediocrities, I would be willing to forgive them a poor, rebuilding season where the pitchers get to mature and get better. Because the money they save this off-season by not overpaying for crud, they can use next season, when the crop is suppose to be better.

    I still prefer them trying to win, and if they are going to overspend, I guess I would prefer they overspend on Bonds, even though I still don't think he'll be getting any offers that's not in the Frank Thomas 2006 contract range, low base, full of incentives.

    But in the end, I guess even with Bonds, I say don't overspend, I would rather put up with a struggle of a season in 2007 than to overpay for any player, even Bonds, it is not like he's the piece that will make the team a World Series caliber team. So if he's not willing to come back at the market price - which he drove down with his reckless behavior - then that is HIS choice.

    ReplyDelete

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