“I don’t expect to be back; it’s time to move on,” outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said as he packed his belongings in the team’s Angel Stadium clubhouse today. “I’m ready to play for an organization that wants me to play every day. This organization has other plans, and that’s OK.”
And about that contract of his?
“It’s definitely not as big as it was a year ago,” Matthews said. “Obviously, there are some teams that can’t afford it, but when I’m playing every day, I feel I can be a top-line center fielder, and that, I would think, is what a lot of teams want.”
Well, he is right about one thing – his contract is not as large as it was a year ago. It’s still a boat anchor of a deal for a player who has basically no chance of ever starting for another major league team again. Over the first three seasons of his contract with Anaheim, Matthews has been worth -$5.3 million in salary. That minus sign is not a typo. Given his performance relative to the value that could have been found by playing any random Triple-A guy instead, Matthews owes the Angels $5.3 million for taking wins off the board. Even without the contract, he’d have a hard time convincing anyone to employ him in 2010 after two straight seasons of below replacement level production.
The contract makes it impossible for the Angels to trade him, so in the end, they’ll just end up releasing him, at which point Mr. Matthews may be shocked to learn that other teams do not share his optimism about his ability to still be a top-line center fielder. He’s 35 years old and hasn’t shown any ability to hit or field since 2006. The market for aging veterans has collapsed the last few years, as useful players such as Kenny Lofton, Ray Durham, and Frank Thomas have been forced into early retirement against their wishes. Teams simply aren’t willing to use roster spots on players that they feel will create problems in reserve roles, choosing instead to give opportunities to hungry twenty somethings who will work their tails off to live the dream.
Over the last three years, Matthews has proven that he’s not worthy of a starting job and not willing to accept a reserve role, so in the end, he’s probably going to find himself with a new job entirely – one that has nothing to do with playing major league baseball. Sorry, Gary, but you probably just talked yourself right out of the game.